Volume 11 Fall/Winter 1992
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
CARLI: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois
DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH
Volume 1 1 Fall/Winter 1 992
DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is published by the Conference of the Nuns
of the Order of Preachers of the United States of America. The Conference is an
organization of independent monasteries whose purpose is to foster the monastic
contemplative life of the nuns in the spirit of Saint Dominic.
Sr. Mary Thomas, O.P. (Farmington)
Sr. Mary Paul, O.P. (Washington), Coordinator
Sr. Claire, O.P. (North Guilford), Sr. Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo)
Sr. Cynthia Mary, O.P. (Summit)
COORDINATOR OF CONFERENCE PUBUCATIONS
Sr. Mary Martin, O.P., (Summit)
DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is a spiritual and theological review
written by the nuns. Its purpose is to foster the Dominican monastic contemplative
life by the sharing of insights gained from study and prayer. It is published once a
year as a service to the nuns. It is also available to the wider Dominican Family and
others upon request. A donation of $8.00 to aid in the cost of printing would be
appreciated, when possible.
Contributions to this review should be researched and prepared with concern
for literary and intellectual quality. Manuscripts submitted should be clearly typed,
single spaced, on one side of the paper only. The deadline for manuscripts is
September 1st of each year. Minor editing will be done at the discretion of the
editors. If major changes are desired, these will be effected in dialogue with the
authors. The editors, in consultation with the Conference Council, reserve the right
to reject inappropriate manuscripts, though reasons will be given to the author with
courtesy and encouragement.
Contributions should be sent to Sr. Marv Paul, O.P., Monasterv of St. Dominic,
4901 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 2001 1.
Conference of Nuns of the Order of Preachers of the United States of America
All Rights Reserved
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TABU OF CONTiNTS
The Dominican Vision: Roots of Our Monastic Life ...
Integration of its Elements
Sister Mary Magdalen, O.P. (Newark) 2
The Reality of the Lived Experience: Areas to be Explored
Sister Mary of Mercy (Farmington Hills) 11
Reclaiming the Dominican Vision for the 21st Century:
A Challenge for Aging Contemplative Communities
Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P 20
Work: Its Meaning and Value for Contemporary Dominican
Sister Mary Magdalen, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 27
Pursuing Communion in Government: Role of Community Chapter
Malachy O'Dwyer, O.P 38
Prayer, Study, and the Life of Withdrawal
William Columban Barron, O.P 51
Dominican Monastic Tradition
A Parable of the Word
Sister Lee, O.P. (Bronx) 73
Dominican Vision for the Future: A Reflection
Sister Jean Marie, O.P. (North Guilford) 74
Work and the Inroads of Activism
Sister Mary Amata, O.P. (Washington) 81
The Workaholic Syndrome and Original Sin
Sister Maria Agnes, O.P. (Summit) 86
Formed by the Word, Taught by the Spirit, We Dare to Study
Sister Susan Heinemann, O.P. (North Guilford) 100
Theological Study in the Life of Dominican Contemplative Nuns
Sister Mary of the Trinity, O.P. (Farmington Hills) Ill
The Work of the Master's Hand: Letters and Vision of
Father Damian Byrne, O.P
Sister Mary Regina, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 120
Journey to Intimacy
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P.
(W. Springfield) 125
My Eyes are Ever Towards the Lord
Sister Mary Catharine of Jesus, O.P (Summit) 131
A Never Fading Vision
Sister Mary Emmanuel, O.P. (W. Springfield) 137
God Who Reveals Himself
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P. (Menlo Park) 141
Contemplative Religious Women: The American Situation
Twenty-Five Years Later
Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, O.P. (Buffalo) 144
Poetry and Book Reviews
Sister Mary Angela, O.P. (Bronx) 151
Sister Mary Ann of Jesus, O.P. (Fatima) 153
Alive in Truth
Sister Mary Regina, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 158
The Book of Revelation: The Open Book of Prophecy
Sister Lee, O.P. (Bronx) 159
Frontispiece and facing pages 110 and 136
Sister Mary Michael, O.P. (North Guilford)
Section dividers and page 26
Sister Mary Grace, O.P. (Washington)
Reclaiming the Dominican Vision for the 21st Century ,
the theme of the recent General Assembly of the Conference,
also provides the theme for the present issue of DMS . In
what has become a tradition with DMS, we reprint here the
papers delivered by the nuns and friars who were invited to
speak at the Assembly. We do so in order to share their
thoughts more widely, hoping thereby to enkindle in the
reader the same enthusiasm that fired the hearers and
sparked such vivid discussions among them.
When the theme of the Assembly was announced last
spring, the editorial board invited the sisters in our
communities to write for DMS papers on any of the topics to
be addressed at the Assembly. A number of sisters responded
to the invitation with the fine presentations included here
under the heading Dominican Monastic Tradition. They bear
witness to how vital the Dominican vision is in our
monasteries and how keen our sisters' zeal is for its
With this issue, we welcome a new editorial board: Sr.
Mary Paul (Washington), Coordinator; Sr. Claire (North
Guilford); Sr. Mary Thomas (Buffalo); and Sr. Cynthia Mary
(Summit), Business Manager. May God prosper and reward
their labors on behalf of the whole Conference.
Sr. Mary Martin, O.P.
THE DOMINICAN VISION
ROOTS OF OUR MONASTIC LIFE ... INTEGRATION OF ITS ELEMENTS
Sister Mary Magdalen (Newark)
I begin with an introductory note in regard to the theme of our
Assembly: "Reclaiming the Dominican Vision for the Twenty-first
Century." Those who chose the theme will agree with all of us who
lecture that what we are engaged in is not reclaiming the Dominican
Vision as of something we have lost, but in the sense of claiming
again, more deeply and more awarely, what we already have and see;
and doing this in the context of our sense of responsibility to
those who will follow us in the 21st century. It is in this sense
I will speak of claiming / reclaiming.
Since this is the first of our lectures, it seems that before
examining Dominican Vision in detail we might profitably spend some
minutes reflecting on the notion of vision in general - as it might
apply to what we want to do in the course of these days together.
Understanding what a vision is, does, and can do, will solidly base
our listening and discussing during the next few days. Identifying
and expanding the vision we already have will be useful in
orientating courses of action we may decide to follow.
Simply from the point of view of ourselves as rational beings,
we need vision to reach out to ever greater fulfillment of our
possibilities. There is an element of vision in all the worthwhile
things we do, both individually and communally. The degree to which
we keep it before us can significantly influence the quality of our
act ions .
A clearer vision of what our life should be will ordinarily
mean a keener awareness of what choices we should make, what courses
of action we ought to pursue, and how and where we are falling
short. Clarity of vision likewise provides an accurate standard
when we pause to evaluate our life and activity. On the other hand,
lack of vision - in the sense we are speaking about it here -
threatens us with missing the mark, with boredom or empty routine.
And, unfortunately, because living without an impelling vision is
not intrinsically evil we do not always sense the danger of futility
lurking in a vision-less life.
All this is approaching our subject from a psychological angle,
but not without some application in a group gathered like ours for
mutual help in delineating and reclaiming its common vision.
An additional point one could profitably make is the effect of
permeating the course of our day with this alertness of vision.
Keeping our inner eye bright with vision, the vision of what is
really happening when we stand in praise at the Office, when we
participate in the Mass or worship the Eucharist in private
adoration, when we share with our sisters in the daily exchanges
within community; ... maintaining a contemplative vision of reality
as we respond to all the details of regular observance, to the
discipline of manual labor or of some work of penance, and when we
quietly accept the debility of sickness or aging; ... keeping the
eyes of our mind and heart bright with vision in all this, means
life! It means living in truth! It means wholeness! It is a
primary aspect of integration - that within our own spirit.
Moving beyond the psychological approach or, perhaps better.
adding to it to consider ourselves as persons living under grace,
persons in whom grace has taken the form of a specific vocation, we
note an intrinsic connection between a clear-eyed, supernatural
vision of our life and knowing where our life is rooted. This
VISION and our ROOTS both have their ultimate reach into God. As we
strain to expand our field of vision to possibilities beyond our own
limited light, we are really stretching out to him and searching for
his vision for our life. As we question more intently what
constitutes the sustaining roots of our life and work, we have not
gone far enough if we do not reach him, the ultimate Source of our
life, its Key and Meaning - the One who reminds us: " Wi thout me you
can do nothing," the One without whom it means nothing.
This motif of vis ion-and-root s appears in God's selection and
guidance of his Chosen People in the Old Testament. He kept holding
up to them his vision for them; he kept reminding them of their
roots - their human origins and background - and that their destiny
was rooted in his Call and their response to his word. Through all
the vicissitudes of their history they were involved in something so
much greater than themselves: his vision and choice of mission for
them - tied to his covenant with them and his plan of salvation for
all people. There is a message here for us: Our call to the Order
of Preachers gives us, too, a well-defined role in God's vision of
salvation. As one of the Oakland Chapter documents puts it in a
powerful line: We have "a vocation for all of humanity." (1)
The theme of this Assembly is summoning us to take time out to
look attentively at our roots as nuns of the Order of Preachers, to
claim anew the vision which is our heritage, and to strengthen one
another in safeguarding that vision for the nuns of tomorrow.
As we turn our attention more directly to the Dominican Vision,
the first thing I might say is that the Dominican Vision is not
something we originate. We have been plunged into the midst of it!
And there is one Dominican Vision - from the very beginning -
down through many centuries, places, cultures, and persons. It was
that vision which inspired and guided Dominic and the beginnings of
the Order, and which for nearly eight centuries has perdured throush
all the hazards of being grasped more or less clearly by each
succeeding generation. We can summarize it by saying that God
predestined the members of this Order to be persons whose lives
would be spent in cherishing his word, in penetrating and being
nourished by it; persons whose energies would be devoted to the
service of that word being given to others.
We, the nuns of the Order, may rightly claim and rejoice in
what it offers us of holiness and apostolic f rui t fulness . Moreover,
we have been assured that our role in the Order plays the "highest
part" and is "of the greatest importance" in the attainment of the
Order's purpose, because our contemplation and our life inasmuch as
they are truly and properly Dominican are by their very nature
ordered to the apostolate which the Dominican family exercises as a
Here is a second aspect of integration for us: the integration
of our personal life into the ideals and life and activity of the
whole Dominican Family. It has multiple repercussions: on our
personal growth in holiness, on the authenticity of Dominican Life
in our monasteries, and - very importantly - on the vitality of the
Order of Preachers as a whole.
This consciousness of a radical link with and support of the
other members of the Order is a facet of our vocation planted by God
deep in the spirit of the individual nuns who comprise our
communities. One who fails to advert to the fact of her insertion
in the broader vision and purpose of the Order can be holy and
fervent and fruitful in her pursuit of monastic contemplative life.
But her life will lack something of what God intended for her when
he called her to be a Dominican nun. That "something" is the
energizing consciousness of involvement in a unique apostolic
mission in the Church, and of an exhilarating fellowship with other
women and men in carrying it out.
Women seeking the enclosed contemplative life today will be
attracted when they see in us such an awareness of our identity and
of our involvement in something great.
To understand who we are is critical
for carrying us into the 21st century.
Tracing its historical roots: ... This distinctive identity of
ours comes into existence when our holy Father Dominic gathers women
converts to the Catholic faith in the monastery of Blessed Mary of
Prouille, and bonds them to himself and his earliest companions by
associating their life of prayer and penance with his "holy
preaching". We contemplate this beginning of our identity with
reverence as something sacred transpiring: the insertion of delicate
roots in the solid soil of an initial grace which conceals in its
lowliness the dynamism of centuries of growth to come.
I would like to linger for a few moments on the picture of
these first women whom the Lord was inviting to be "free for God
alone" while supporting by their prayer and penance the work in
which Saint Dominic was engaged. ... There can be little doubt
that their zeal for their way of life was constantly nourished by an
awareness of their role in regard to the preaching of Dominic and
his companions. With but slight exceptions, we know nothing more
than the names of these eldest sisters of ours, but their lives
furnish us a paradigm and a hope. ... A paradigm: Like us they
were simply 'who they were', but before God they were women whom he
had foreknown, predestined, and called to be part of a work so much
more vast than they themselves could possibly have envisioned. --
And that is why they furnish us a hope: that we, like them, can
transcend the insignificance of 'who we are of ourselves' and be
catalysts to the fulfillment of the Order's mission in our own time.
From these first sisters of ours to the present there is the
impressive stretch of nearly eight hundred years in which tens of
thousands of women faithfully lived the ideals of the Order, women
in whom its vision was claimed and reclaimed: "Nuns of the Order of
Preachers" in whom its tradition was made firm.
In recent decades we have been blessed with a new understanding
of who we are. Our new Constitutions place us in the midst of rich
opportunities for growth in Dominican monastic contemplative life
that were only dreamed of in previous decades. But it was precisely
because there were those who dreamed of them that a door was opened
for their coming to be.
I am reminded of my visiting one of our monasteries a year or
two after our Conference had been formed. A wonderful older nun -
her face lit up - expressed with enthusiasm her feelings about the
Conference: "It's just what I have dreamed of," she said. "It's an
answer to prayer." ... Are there things we are hesitant to dream
about and pray for - now - that might become just as possible and
normal a few decades in the future - things that are quite
consistent with the Dominican Vision as the 21st century overtakes
A few indications of where these might develop can be found in
movements in recent years: a new attention to our "oneness in
diversity" in the concept of "Dominican Family"; the contribution of
Dominican women in this family, and their presence and active
participation at recent General Chapters; the exhortation from the
recent Chapter in Mexico that the nuns from their contemplative
identity be in solidarity with the priorities of the Order. (3)
Among ourselves, there is the growing movement of our coming
together for mutual support in ways new to our tradition where
autonomy spelled isolat ion .
I add one other - more interior - movement, viz the deepening
of the quality of life in our monasteries. It is worth recalling
that Master General Martin Gillet in his encyclical letter to the
nuns on their [then] new Constitutions, sixty years ago, devotes a
full half of the letter to encouraging the development of "The
Mystical Life of the Nuns". It took forty years for Father Giliet's
seminal and practical suggestions to be spelled out within the Nuns'
Constitutions themselves. But when we look back on our tradition we
find in our Dominican women saints a pronounced trait of mysticism
in the best sense of that word.
As we behold the wealth of opportunities at hand to deepen the
quality of life in our monasteries, I dare to include in the legacy
we may pass on to our sisters in the twenty-first century our
c 1 aiming-anew of the mystical element in the life of the nuns. Our
faithful response to this aspect of our call is among our best gifts
to the Friars and to the whole Order. There is all the more reason
for what I am saying, when one sometimes sees others - called like
ourselves to canonical contemplative life - losing faith in their
own charism and seeking validation for their life in elements
foreign to it.
I have digressed a bit, though I hope not without profit. Let
us return to looking at the Dominican Vision - as it is concretized
twenty-four hours of the day in our Constitutions.
For nearly eight centuries the roots of monastic life have been
essential supports of our identity within the Order and in the
Church. Our intent to be free for God alone and to blend authentic
community with silence and solitude are joined to our contemplative
attitude toward work, the solemn celebration of the liturgy, works
of penance, and our dedication to the word of God - through study as
well as through lectio divina.
The lecturers who will follow me will treat directly and
extensively with many of these, and some other important elements in
our Constitutions. So, for my part, I will consider some aspects
that may be touched on only indirectly in later lectures
The nuns on our new Commission which met in Rome this past
Spring reported that they had found among the nuns, internationally,
"... a common search for equilibrium in the elements that make up
our life -- how to balance or integrate them into the life seen as a
whole." (4) In the search for equilibrium and integration, I
suggest that we can gather up and harmonize these elements and
safeguard their balance by viewing our life under two basic, very
familiar, and complementary aspects: being "free for God alone", and
living all the gift and demand of community with "one mind and
heart". Each of us can test the integration, the wholeness of our
own life and that of our community, by asking, "How is community
functioning among us? How free for God alone is each member?" --
Being free for God alone in one's personal life enables one to be a
good all-around community person. The two factors are not separate
in practice. If either in some way becomes a hindrance to the
other, something is crying out for discernment!
There are many ways of developing the theme of being free for
God alone. -- Our last General Assembly did this thoroughly
It is right that our communities be constantly solicitous for this
primary freedom, and attentive to remove obstacles to it in
community structures and activities. Ultimately, however, whatever
my surroundings I must answer for my own life - deep in my heart -
whether / am "free for God alone". Having said this, and because
the theme of being free for God alone was so thoroughly developed
previously, I would like now to offer some thoughts on its
complementary factor in finding equilibrium and integration in
living our Dominican Vision, viz COMMUNITY.
The Oakland Chapter document "DE VITA COMMUNI" states firmly:
"The call to community living is at the heart of our call to the
Dominican Life." (5)
We know how essential was the part that Community played in
Saint Dominic's vision of the Order. From its Fundamental
Constitution [VI] we learn that the structure of the Order as a
religious society arises [not only] from its mission - a group of
persons intent on a particular apostolic work - [but also] from
fraternal communion. In our own Fundamental Constitution we read
that the Nuns of the Order came into being when Dominic gathered a
small group of women into a community intent on God in oneness of
mind and heart. The regulations that Dominic drew up for both
friars and nuns flowed out of their living together in community
with a work to be done together for the Church. Thus their rule of
life was, as it must always continue to be, not a sterile
codification of laws but a dynamic expression of their life together
in response to God's calling them to a common mission.
We could multiply quotations from the Nuns' Constitutions on
communion and community. Besides the texts directly related to them
it is significant how often the theme of communion emerges in
connection with elements of our life in a way that earlier editions
of our Constitutions did not make so explicit.
Thus we read:
... work serves the common good by building up charity
through cooperation; (#105.11)
... study encourages unanimity of mind; (#100.11)
... our celebration of the sacred liturgy re-lives the
communion of the primitive Church in Jerusalem, drawn together by
the teaching of the Apostles and united in daily prayer. (#1.IV)
We are told:
... to judge our failures in fidelity to the gospel in
terms of injury to the common good; (#71)
... that we should partake of our bodily food as a sign
of sisterly communion. (#54.1)
In the Order community permeates the practice of the
Obedience ... The Dominican Vision finds in
obedience a principle of unity. It sees obedience as keeping a
community faithful to its spirit and mission, when under the
leadership of superiors it works for the broader community - the
common good of the Church and the Order. (#17.1; 18.1)
Chastity ... In the Dominican Vision, fidelity to
her profession of perfect chastity not only makes the nun share
intimately the all-embracing divine friendship but also opens to her
the beauty of serene human friendship in the common life of her
religious family. (#26.11)
Poverty ... It is our living in community that
enables the practice of dedicated poverty. The Dominican Vision
sees it as drawing us closer together in mutual trust and dependence
on one another for the necessities of life. (#3.1,11; 29.1)
The orientation to communion and community has always been a
basic principle in the Order. In the past few decades, however,
it has been given increasing attention - urging us to a heightened
awareness of how much more community means for a Dominican than
living in the same house and following a common schedule.
It is possible that in the past the ideal monastic community
was understood to be the one in which there was a canonized rigor
about doing everything in common; and there resulted some consequent
limited sensitivity to the individual. While the balancing of the
rights of the individual with her responsibilities to the community
will always be a delicate thing, we can be especially grateful for
the guidance our present legislation provides in the effort to
achieve this balance.
Authentic Dominican community living reflects and continues
that joyous freedom within oneself and the gift of self to others
which marked the life and fraternal relationships of Saint Dominic.
It is a healthy and attractive vision of life that we can offer
the women of today and tomorrow. All around them in the lay state
numerous opportunities are available to them for growing in
knowledge and love of the Lord and dedication of themselves to the
spread of his kingdom. It is a confirmation of our own valuing of
community life to note how often they instinctively reach out to
share their life with like-minded persons within the support of a
stable community. The many lay communities that have been springing
up are a phenomenon that forces us to examine their life against
ours, and urges us to reclaim what is best in Dominican Community.
We do have reason to trust that Canonical Religious Life will
continue in the Church of the 21st century. Part of the heritage we
will safeguard for it is our faith in the perennial value of our
Dominican Vision and the witness it gives to God's Kingdom among us.
I add what is probably a very familiar quotation from the
Oakland Chapter Document on Common Life. It speaks of the ...
... many positive elements in our [Dominican] communities
today which are signs of hope to our world:
- the witness of prayer in a secularized world where many
are searching for an experience of God;
- the witness of mutual support and understanding in a
world where fragmentation is increasing;
- the witness of exceptional generosity in a world where
selfishness is growing;
- the witness of unity and love in a world where division
and hate abound;
- the witness to stable commitment in a world of
insecurity and uncertainty. (6)
In giving this Dominican witness to the world
authentic community is pivotal.
A Dominican does not respond to the demands of community in the
frame of mind that says community life is her "great cross." ...
Certainly, community life hones us down to size and elicits every
sort of virtue, while revealing us to ourselves with sometimes
painful clarity. But this does not constitute its essential value
and beauty. Rather, we who live in Dominican community are called
to mirror the inner life of the Trinity, and by our living in unity
within the limits of our monasteries to transcend those limits and
be instruments of God's healing of a fragmented world.
I balance the sharing of my thoughts on the place of community
in our Dominican Vision by adding a few words on solitude. In fact,
one of the challenges that we as Dominican Nuns must constantly face
is the successful integration of community and solitude.
Heading the list of elements in the formation of our novices,
our Constitutions ask that they be instructed in "common life united
with silence and solitude." (#118.11) In our Dominican Vision of
monastic life, solitude is not a value pursued in isolation from or
taking priority over community; it accompanies community. Our
present legislation's provision for a solitude we had not been
previously allowed is an aspect of our Dominican respect for each
person's individual uniqueness.
The women whom Saint Dominic gathered in our first monasteries
at Prouille and Rome were plainly to have a spirit that could expand
and be 'at home' in community; but just as surely they were to be
free for God, 'at home' alone with him in the solitude of the depths
of their spirit, welcoming the monastic summons to fruitful solitude
as fundamental to their apostolic mission of contemplative prayer.
If in the past an emphasis was placed on community at the
expense of solitude, the Dominican Vision for the 21st century
summons us to continue to reclaim personally and as a community the
opportunities that solitude - sought with wisdom - affords us for
growth in the contemplative spirit, and for best fulfilling our
responsibility that God's word may accomplish those things for which
it was sent . (LCM 1 . II )
The Dominican Vision is not vague or Utopian. From the
beginning it has been clearly delineated and it has solid
theological underpinnings. To be guided by it is to breathe the
fresh air of truth, and to devote ones energies for a lifetime to
formation in truth and to sharing with others the truth one has seen
and 1 ived .
The Vision is spelled out in laws -- yes. There is an
orderliness about the Dominican Vision that has an enlightened
respect for law, but simply as the maidservant of the life for which
the law exists. In an age teetering with permissiveness we continue
to reclaim for ourselves and those who will follow us Saint
Dominic's attractive characteristic of balancing firmness in holdin;
to the laws that guide our life, with wisdom in their application.
The Dominican Nun is called to be a woman of vision. She is
invited to a maturity which takes all the riches our way of life
provides and harmonizes them within the wholeness of one who has
become "total gift" - to God and for her brothers and sisters.
Faced with the awesomeness of the Vision and the Call, I can
only echo Saint Paul's words:
"It is not that I have already taken hold
of it or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may
possess it ... straining forward to what lies ahead,
... the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ
Jesus." (Phil. 3:12-14)
To such were the life and energies of Saint Dominic directed.
To such must ours also be drawn.
1. General Chapter of Oakland, 1989, Commission IV,
Document on the Priorities of the Order 1.3.
2. Br. Anicetus Fernandez, O.P., Master General, Letter
of Presentation , Book of Constitutions of the Nuns of
the Order of Preachers, USA 1987, p. 5.
3. General Chapter of Mexico, 1992, Commission Document on
the Dominican Family , Exhortation 11. g.
4. Report of the Second Meeting of the Commission of Nuns,
Rome, 1992, Part I. Responses of the Monasteries to
the Orbev Letter , final paragraph. Eng. trans, p. 7.
5. General Chapter of Oakland, 1989, Commission I,
Document on Community Life 3.1.
6. ibid. 2. 1 .
THE REALITY OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCE:
AREAS TO BE EXPLORED
Sister Mary of Mercy, O.P.
( Transcription )
I was quite a small child, visiting in the home of my
aunt, the night that the Brownell School burned. It was a
fascinating but a frightening sight. We were awakened by my
older cousin to come down and we could see, through the
buildings, the school burning. The response was varied. I
think that the grown-ups were a little bit relieved that it
burned at night, the wooden staircases and floors. In the
morning there was among, of course, the children, a great deal
of glee. The school was burned down! They were delighted.
But one little philosopher was a little more silent, to their
annoyance, and they said, "Well, what's the matter with you,
Freddie?" And he said, "It won't do any good. The teachers
weren't in it!" And he was right. Some people see more
deeply than others and are able to voice what they see.
Twenty-five years ago or so, we were blessed by the
voices of Father Walgrave and Father Vicaire, as the Order
approached the renewal of its Constitutions. They were able
to look into the charism, the grace of Saint Dominic, and look
into the history of the Order and perceive both the
essentials, the continuity, and the renewal. We benefited
from what they saw and what they said to us.
And there are some of us here who had the great grace of
the experience of re-writing our Constitutions, refounding our
own communities, and it was a thrilling experience because it
was something that we no longer did because "this is what we
did" but because we had looked into and studied and placed all
of the elements there by God's grace.
Now a number of years have elapsed since that time and in
the Church there are new voices rising not only in our own
Order but outside of it to reassess the situation of religious
life today, and we can listen to those voices. Many would be
familiar with the recent book of Sister Mary Jo Leddy on re-
weaving of the religious life. I'm not advocating "creative
disintegration" but perhaps we can be aware of what has been
said of religious life buying in too much to the secular
culture, being the "instant gratification" people. We can
hear the word "radical" but I hope we will interpret it as a
more radical living of the Gospel and of our own life.
The voice of Sister Elizabeth McDonough has been present
to us, not verbally but on the printed page, but I think it is
a very perceptive voice. And she has honestly looked at the
situation of religious life today and seen, perhaps, the
danger of entering into the liberal individualism and the
psychological selfism. And we should be aware of that voice,
that in the age that has now become post-liberal and post-
modern, we may not buy into the liberal and modern systems. I
don't mean that pessimistically. I think Sister has spoken
very well of the need for structures in religious life, and we
have been blessed in our own Constitutions because those
structures have been preserved — and I am speaking of the
Observances which we have to preserve and use well.
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But another voice spoke, I think, a little more urgently
and that was that of Father Damian Byrne in the letter that he
wrote to us before he left the office of Master of the Order.
And I would sum up what he said to us . . . I think he used the
word "interdependence" or "inter-relatedness," ... and I think
that's an area that perhaps needs more urgent exploring, or I
hope will be in some way useful.
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And I'm to look for the areas that we need to focus on.
One of them I will call "inculturation." What do I mean by
that? The language that we can find within the members of our
community to articulate our vision and our living out of the
charism that will bring us together. In an earlier version
Sister Mary Magdalen had pointed out -- which I had seen --
but it's very true, that a good number of us were first formed
in the former Constitutions, and the younger members that we
have did not have that experience. We may be using a
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The second area within community of course, Sisters, is
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would be a great help to us.
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In formation for Government -- this has already been
proposed -- of guidance perhaps for the prioresses, and we
would be glad to have it and we could use it, to come
together. Even as far back as Saint Basil, in his Long Rules
(Rule #54) he mentions that the superiors should come together
and talk this all out. And I think that would be a great
service that the Conference could provide for the prioresses
as well as for others, either in leadership or even for the
work of the Chapter.
The help given to one or other of monasteries: in Father
Byrne's paper he mentions the suggestion of one of the nuns of
the possibility of perhaps two smaller monasteries founding an
entirely new entity. As the Conference, we do not reach into
the area of government or decision-making of any of the
monasteries and that is not the intention, but do we wish to
give to the Conference any ways to help a monastery who so
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We have in Constitution #1, "these women Saint Dominic
associated with the holy preaching by prayer and penance."
Later on ... "spending themselves totally for souls, with one
charity, one mercy, the friars, the Sisters and the laity
preach the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world. The nuns
seek, ponder, and call upon him in solitude so that the Word
may accomplish what it has been sent to do."
In the Common Life (#2 and 3) we read: "the unity in the
monastery transcends the limits and attains its fulness in
communion with the Order and with the whole Church, living in
harmony, having one mind and one heart in God." Again ...
"the unanimity there would furnish an example of that
reconciliation of all things in Christ which our brethren
proclaim in their preaching." If we cannot live
reconciliation within our own midst, then we cannot further
the reconciliation of the Order. We "must first build in our
own monasteries the Church of God which we help to spread by
the offering of ourselves."
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There is an article by Sister Raphaela Gasser in a recent
"Dominican Ashram," in which she mentions that the interaction
there was really through the needs of the nuns of Zurich which
called forth a lot of the writings of Tauler and Eckhart, and
questions whether Henry Suso would have begun the writings in
which he engaged if it was not for Elsbeth for whom often he
In other ways, of course, we have been interrelated. The
Fathers have helped us so much with formation, and as
Eckhart's and Suso's and Tauler's lives were touched so much
by the nuns, I'm sure Father Gabriel has found his touched --
and often impinged upon — by us.
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With our Dominican Friars in Grand Rapids, there is a
growing friendship as well. The small community has been
coming once or twice a year to spend their day of recollection
and reflection at the Monastery. Now they have proposed a new
initiative — a day of joint study, friars and nuns studying
and sharing together. At the end of October we will celebrate
such a day reflecting on St. Matthew's Gospel. It is a new
way of interaction and enrichment. We had never thought of
But primarily our charism in missio is in the essential
of the life -- because this is of the essence of our
to be the purely contemplative life -- and certainly
are ways of overflowing into the interaction within the
Mission for us nuns ... we all have it in the
who write to our monasteries and in
musicians and artisans and, much more
who come to find the peace of our
our liturgies and who appreciate this
correspondence of those
the work of our monastic
simply, in the people
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One more challenge I think we need to place before
ourselves and that is hope. Sister Mary Magdalen courageously
says, "the dreams before us" and we want to see them that way
and, I admit, they are dreams and we must trust in God's
providence. But it's a little bit scary and so I think we
have to approach them in hope. To the twenty-first century we
look, that is true, but it is "today" we must live. "Today"
is the moment of grace, the kairos. We trust that the God who
has been with us this far will be with us until the end.
RECLAIMING THE DOMINICAN VISION FOR THE 2 1ST CENTURY ;
A CHALLENGE FOR AGING CONTEMPLATIVE COMMUNITIES
Bro. Ignatius Perkins, OP, DNSc, RN,
25 September 1992
Since the earliest days of the Order, our communities have provided
care for our sick, the aging, and dying sisters and brothers. Our
Father Dominic, as "consoler of the sick and of those who were in
distress" (Constitutions of the Order of Preachers, #9), cared for his
brothers with great compassion and tenderness. Following the model of
St. Dominic, caring for one another in community provides the unique
opportunity where the living expression of Dominican life bonds us
together in the Lord. It is in this context that the expression of our
love and care for one another, united in our common mission of
preaching, can truly be a countersign to the world seeking meaning and
salvation. As St. Dominic's life serves as a role model for us, we too
must serve as role models, by showing others that we take reasonable
care of ourselves and especially one another in our old age, respecting
life as a good which we hold in honor, since God created it and will
raise it up on the last day.
Religious communities today face unprecedented challenges but
especially new opportunities in caring for a growing number of elderly
members. Life expectancy has steadily increased. Infectious diseases
have been well controlled by the use of antibiotics. Mortality from
chronic diseases has been dramatically reduced through the use of
sophisticated drugs and diagnostic procedures. While we have received
the benefits of new healthcare technologies, death from cancer and heart
disease continues to take some of our sisters and brothers at early
ages. Longevity in some of our members is accompanied by increased
functional dependence, the dementias and a greater need for nursing and
health care services.
Making decisions about health and nursing care for the sisters,
caring for difficult persons in the community, affirming those who are
fearful and depressed, discerning the benefits and burden of treatment,
placement of a sister in a long term healthcare center, and enabling the
continued development of your community's psychological, physical, and
spiritual wellness as it fulfills its Mission, are your special
responsibilities as leaders in your communities.
Needed resources to assure the continued Mission of your community
in the Church while providing an appropriate level of care -human -
financial -and environmental - tests the strength of our community
bonds, our ingenuity, and especially our faith in a loving Father who
wants only good for His children. You are indeed no strangers to these
challenges inherent in your role. But, for the moment, remember: though
there are those in your communities who believe you can walk on water,
can leap over tall buildings in a single bound and have the facility to
talk to God directly, you too have needs and limits. So as you work to
enable the continued growth of your communities in all of their human
and spiritual dimensions, remember your own need for quiet time, for
prayer, for leisure, for rest and for some humor tool
AGING IN COMMUNITY
Aging in community or aging in place, as the professional
literature describes it today, is one of your special concerns addressed
in this Assembly. Discussions about health and aging, while a very
important strategic aspect in your effort in "reclaiming the Dominican
vision" can evoke reactions of fear, resentment, anxiety, and denial.
The possibility of slowing down in our later years is considered by
some of us as inconceivable and inappropriate for religious. It can be
rightly stated - we have been called to serve - not until a certain age -
but for the whole of our lives. Still, some of us welcome the time when
the pressures of administration and serving the community in leadership
roles can be given to others. Do we still believe that our value and
worth in the community is measured only by productive work? Can we
really be free and welcome the time when the pressure to be efficient
and meet demanding schedules of the community and the ministry can be
exchanged for more opportunities to develop the contemplative character
of Dominican life?
Henri Nouwen, in his book entitled Aging the Fulfillment of Life ,
(1974) describes aging as the most common human experience which
overarches the human community. It is an experience so profoundly human
that it breaks through the artificial boundaries between childhood and
adulthood, and between adulthood and old age. Aging is not a reason for
despair but a basis for hope, not a slow decaying but a gradual
maturing, not a fate to be undergone, but a chance to be embraced.
Aging does not need to be denied, but can be understood, affirmed and
experienced as a process of growth and development by which the mystery
of life and redemption is slowly revealed to us. Those of us who are
old, or middle-aged, or young, as well as those of us who care for the
old, need to find each other in the common experience of aging, out of
which healing and new life can come forth. We can never be fully
present to the elderly if we continue to hide from our own aging. As
Nouwen notes, we need to allow the old person to awaken in ourselves.
As Dominicans each of us shares a common bond with all humanity,
namely, the progressive achievement of full personality in an ongoing
process from conception to the grave. Aging, then, is a normal life-
long event, separate and distinct from illness. Our perceptions of
aging and the elderly are influenced by our cultural and familial
experiences and attitudes, personal habits, our Dominican life, and the
expectations and responsibilities as preachers in today's world.
In our lives as Dominicans, the positive and creative awareness of
aging and fulfillment in ourselves and those of our communities is
familiar and noteworthy. Experiences of rejection, isolation, and being
marginalized in the community may have particular meaning for some of
our elderly. How attentive have we been to the developing needs of the
aging person awakening within ourselves and in those with whom we live?
Have you thought about your own aging and its effect on your own
personal and spiritual maturation? Can you see beauty in the aging
process occurring among your Sisters? Have you found that you have been
impatient with an elderly Sister when repeating instructions dozens of
times each day? Did you allow your elderly Sister to share with you an
important part of her history even though you have heard the same story
hundreds of times? Why were you able to recognize the need for
relief of arthritic pain in one Sister but failed to recognize the
psychological pain and depression expressed by an elderly sister who is
experiencing an increasing degree of confusion and uncertainty?
There was little, in times past, in our formation programs which
provided a conscious preparation for our own aging during our later
years. This absence is not peculiar to your Dominican contemplative
life but reflects the careless drift of the larger society to which we
belong. As Dominican women you too have been affected by the philosophy
and efficiency of the work ethic. Perhaps a special factor influencing
our hesitancy about preparing for our later years has been the assurance
that our basic needs for survival and security would be fulfilled. As a
result, waiting for directions from superiors and passive acceptance of
inactivity, adjoined with the normal frailties of aging can contribute
to the development of feelings of loneliness, apathy and uselessness.
Preparing for our later years involves careful discernment about
our continuing commitment as Dominican religious in today's world. We
have all been called to proclaim the gospel by word and deed to one
another and to the community of the Church. While our ministry of
preaching may assume difference forms, we remain committed by our solemn
profession, a commitment which is completely and perpetually joined to
the life and mission of Christ (Basic Constitutions).
To reverse negative attitudes among the sisters, there i3 need to
include study and acquire practical experience in understanding the
process of aging and its implications for community life and ministry,
especially when the number of our elderly sisters continues to
increase. This is a particularly important value to be incorporated in
our formation programs so that from the very beginning our younger
sisters develop an understanding of the particular needs of the elderly
and an appreciation and understanding of how vital are their continued
contributions to the Mission of their monastery and to the Church.
Understanding and appreciation for the commitment of our older
sisters to the life of the community and our ministry of preaching is a
significant aspect of a fruitful community life for sisters of all
ages . Formation programs should make every effort to integrate
principles and concepts on the aging process into the formative
experience of the younger sisters. Senior sisters also need the
opportunity to gain a better understanding and appreciation of their own
Through personal and ongoing community development, sisters can
acquire a greater understanding of the intergenerational dynamics
operative in a community and what it means to become older, wiser and
happy together. Facilitation in identifying the gifts of each sister
from the youngest to the oldest and especially to reverence the
differences in one another's values, educational achievements, culture
experiences and contribution to the Church are important aspects of a
CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER
The challenge very close to us these days is caring for the sick
and the elderly. You do indeed have great compassion for the sick and
the elderly in your monasteries. I can speak from personal experiences
where I have witnessed the care and compassion given to those who need
to experience the healing mission of Jesus. Your monasteries are holy
places and your care of the sick and the elderly is a truly sacred
Some of you may agree that your centers of care are not the most
elaborately furnished with state-of-the-art equipment. Hardware which
can minimize the physical strain on patients and caregivers is not
always immediately available. Some quarters are small leaving few
options for storage of needed equipment and supplies. Designers of
health care facilities and equipment would see our infirmaries as
architectural wonders to be challenged.
Most important, however, your centers of care are richly endowed
with love and compassion. These centers of love and hope are an
integral part of your home - the same home for many sisters for multiple
decades. What may be lacking in conveniences is abundantly rich with
creative alternatives to care for the sick and elderly within the
environment of a Dominican community. And you must be commended for the
efforts you are making in providing care at home. No wonder, then,
there is resistance to change, to bringing in outsiders to help care for
the sick, or to even considering the possibility of sending a sister to
another place for care.
Your elderly sisters, like others in society, experience loss and
grieve over major changes in their lives. They see their own health and
that of others in a state of decline. They cannot walk as easily nor
can they work as long and as hard as in earlier years. They know well
of the number of duties which now must be shared by a fewer number of
younger sisters. Have you not heard the concerns voiced by an infirmed
sister about her feelings of the burden she imposes on others while they
care for her? Did you hear the frustrations of your infirmarian who
finds it increasingly stressful to care for an uncooperative patient but
expresses guilt when she becomes impatient with the burden of care?
Some of you have served in the role of infirmarian, so you know
well the burdens carried by those who minister to the sick: the long
hours, the interrupted nights, and occasional misunderstanding and
criticism of the infirmarian as she implements a specific nursing care
plan for the sick and the dying. How have you managed to balance these
concerns so the needs of the caregiver and the carereceiver and the
common good of the community can be met?
These are only a few of the many questions which come to mind as
together we raise some of the important issues and concerns about the
needs of the sick and the elderly who walk among you and those who care
for them. I submit, however, that these questions are not new for you.
In enunciating these questions I want you to be comforted in knowing
that these concerns affect all of our communities. It is in
understanding our common experiences that we can bring to one another
enormous resources and mutual support in responding to these unique
challenges and unique opportunities for securing the Mission of our
Order into the 2000' s.
RECLAIMING THE VISION
Your theme for the 1992 General Assembly is quite appropriate as
you undertake a strategic initiative in planning for the 2000 's. Your
coming together in this forum for some years now and through other
collaborative initiatives, is a visible and noble example of how you
value Dominican interdependence in enabling one another to fulfill your
common mission as contemplative Dominican women. Call it collaboration,
cooperation, enabling, interdependence, synergy, sharing, simply put, it
means you both want and need one another's mutual support and confidence
as we move into our next century of ministry.
What practical initiatives can be identified which will respond to
the challenges we all face in caring for one another with compassion and
understanding. Permit me to identify several ideas which I am sure will
be more fully elaborated during our discussion:
1. I believe it is important for all members of the community to
understand that planning and decisions about a program for caring
for our elderly members is not reserved to the prioress or the
infirmarian. The entire community needs to understand their
responsibility in this common call to care for one another and to
actively participate in all aspects of "reclaiming the vision."
2. Use of nursing resources outside the community in providing care for
the sisters in the monasteries has been tried with a certain degree
of success. Use of these resources has reduced the burden of the
sisters in providing care twenty-four hours each day. The concern
voiced by sisters about "outsiders" coming into the monastery should
be addressed by the entire community. While it is important to
protect the spirit of the monastery, our lay employees should be
considered as collaborators in the Mission. In their roles, they
provide enormous service for us. The grace that you receive in
caring for the sick, the elderly and the dying is also shared and
experienced by the nursing staff as they follow your prescriptions
for love, for compassion and for nursing care.
Cost for support services for the community, however, can place a
drain on the already limited resources of the monastery. The
community should be kept informed about healthcare costs since this
information can help improve stewardship of our resources.
3. Admitting sisters to the infirmaries of other religious communities
has also been successful. Where arrangements can be made,
especially with Dominican congregations, these need to be encouraged
and further developed.
Criticism from some members of our communities, especially about
sending our sick and elderly to other places for care at one of the
most vulnerable moments in their lives, is a cause of concern for
communities and a source of stress for community leaders. In some
situations, placing the dilemma before the entire community has
helped identify the many complex issues which undergird the initial
resistance to giving responsibility for care of our sick to others.
As you may well imagine, objections to sending a sister to another
center for care, at times, has little to do with this sister's need
at the moment. The roots of the objections take many forms, for
example, denial of the aging process; fear of being sent away if I
should need nursing care; loss of a long loved sister; etc.
4. Securing the professional services of a geriatric nurse practitioner
to provide consultation on the care of the sisters at home can
enhance the quality of your home care program and provide an
immediate resource for the infirmarian in making assessments and
planning nursing interventions. Physicians are helpful but they
know little about planning nursing care for the elderly.
5. Over these past few years there has been some informal discussion
about the need to preserve the contemplative vocation and consider
sending our sisters to one or a few regionally designated
monasteries for care. From your own experience you know well the
resistance to giving up your sisters to others for care. You also
know the expense of providing care, not only in terms of dollars,
but also the human resources needed to provide care over the long
term. Without the assurance of a critical mass of patients,
operational costs can quickly become unmanageable.
OUR CHALLENGE :
How are we to responsibly address these competing values and
concepts? What is the Lord asking us to give up or to take on as we
address the care of one another?
Our Mission of Caring is clear: caring about ourselves and for one
another is a challenge to be embraced and accepted, never a problem or a
burden to be endured. Through our caring with compassion we bring the
healing ministry of Jesus Christ to one another. In this way we preach
and care for each other at very special moments in our Dominican lives.
Our community life, as Fr. Damian Byrne noted in early writings, is our
first preaching; it is a prophetic witness to and an authenticating sign
of what we communicate by word of mouth.
To fulfill our Mission of Caring, and to "reclaim the
Dominican Vision for the 21st Century", requires strategic prayer,
thinking, and planning. In this effort we need to call one another to
the generous and courageous acceptance of all the demands which
community life makes of us: good stewards of our personal health,
accountability for the use of our resources, caring for our sisters who
are troubled and in distress, affirmation and reverence of our elderly
sisters, compassionate care for those suffering with terminal diseases
and being present with the dying. This is the healing ministry of Jesus
Christ; it must also be our own ministry to one another!
ITS MEANING AND VALUE FOR CONTEMPORARY
DOMINICAN MONASTIC LIFE
Sr. Mary Magdalen, O.P.
"They gazed on God; they ate and they drank" (Ex 24:11b).
This is not a description of the abbas and ammas of Skete or Nitria or the Cells.
It belongs, as everyone knows, to an account of the primitive theophany at Sinai.
But I would like to propose it as a valid paradigm for the monastic enterprise.
We are seekers after God; but we do spend an impressive part of our lifetime and
devote tremendous energies to involvement with earthly realities.
In developing a theology of work, M. D. Chenu, O.P., sets up the problem as
follows: "We must understand the nature of work and its human and material
origins in order to appreciate its internal laws and its spiritual needs from a
Christian standpoint." Let me begin, then, by taking some glimpses into the
history of thought on the subject of work.
I. SCME HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS
In her book, THE HUMAN CONDITION, Hannah Arendt proposes a distinction between
labor and work based on the etymology of those two words as they have appeared
in every human language, ancient and modern. "Work" referred to the activity or
production of the artist or artisan/ craftsman, while "labor" meant bodily toil
for the necessities of life. These short and incomplete historical notes are
intended to highlight points of importance for a consideration of work in
In classic Greek society, bodily toil or labor was intimately bound up with the
necessities of life; it was subject to necessity, and was relegated to slaves and
tame animals. Craftsmen, artists and artisans were differentiated in relation
to the amount of effort expended, that being the meanest which required the
greatest expenditure of bodily strength. Thus, sculptors were ranked beneath
painters, the genius of the immortal Phidias notwithstanding. For the Greeks,
freedom was opposed to necessity and, therefore, those who labored for the
necessities of life were "in bondage" to necessity. It was on account of the
work they did that laborers were slaves, such work being unworthy of free
persons. The only work really worthy of free persons was a life devoted to the
affairs of the city-state, or politics. In time, the vita-activa (life of
activity) was reckoned among the necessities of life and, for both Plato and
Aristotle, all human activities were subordinate to contemplation and the
philosophical consideration of truth.
Christianity introduced, I think, a decisive change in the history of human
consideration of work and labor, by the very fact that Christ the Lord took upon
himself a life of humble work. Monasticism tended to be counter-cultural. The
appreciation of the monks for manual labor as well as their classless society are
instances of this.
The transition to a market economy in the late middle ages, as Hannah Arendt
says, engendered a shift in values and a new distinction: that between
productive and unproductive labor. In later centuries, there was further
differentiation between skilled and unskilled work and finally that between
manual and intellectual labor.
For Karl Marx, perhaps the greatest of modern labor theorists, the social
existence of the human person overshadows individual existence. When labor is
"socialized" and becomes "labor-power" it is then capable of tremendous
productivity. This marks a crucial turning-point in the history of human work,
concomitant with the introduction of industrialization and automation. In
addition, the modern division of labor in assembly-line work tends to blur, in
some ways, the distinction between skilled and unskilled labor. In today's
society, a shift in esteem for relative importance of intellectual versus manual
work is reflected in the wage-scale in some sectors of public life.
The concept of human self -alienation, according to Copleston, did not originate
with Marx, but Marx located it in the work experience and made the term famous.
For Marx, it is precisely in the objectifying of self in what one produces, that
is, in work, that the self -alienation of the human person comes about, because
what is produced belongs not to the worker but to someone else. (This, of
course, is the reason for the Marxist hatred of the capitalist system.)
II. WORK, DUALISM AND SELF-ALIEHATION
We have witnessed the failure of dialectical materialism as a political program,
but I think the existential reality of human self -alienation remains, and I think
Marx is correct in identifying it within the experience of work. How often do
we not say: "She puts her whole self into whatever she does." Particularly when
work is creative in some way, for example, organizing a department or arranging
and furnishing an infirmary, we care, and care intensely, about how we do things.
We invest a tremendous amount of energy and hours over a lifetime, on thin gs .
But things are transient; they pass away. Hence, the self -alienation. The
ambiguity of our situation is even more apparent in view of monastic respect for
wholehearted dedication to the task at hand, whatever it may be. This line of
thought might lead me to say that between my "spiritual" self and the "things"
I work at there lies a gap, an abyss, a chasm which no intentional ity can bridge.
But, in developing his theology of work, Fr. Chenu takes issue at the outset with
this "gap" which can be called anthropological dualism, or Neo-Platonic dualism,
or just plain dualism. For many years, I have experienced this self -alienation
in my work, probably because I've been a potter and a sculptor and a maintenance
person, as well as a seeker after God. It seems to me that the concept of
dualism has important consequences for work as well as for spirituality.
Dualism, of course, is the affirmation of two principles: matter and spirit, and
matter versus spirit. For Plotinus, God is transcendent, pure, One, utterly
simple. He is to be reached by separation frcm all that is earthly, bodily,
material, multiple. (You can see the implications for work, and again, the idea
of alienation.) The physical universe in all its beauty is not understood as
imaging back to its Creator. It is, rather, multiplicity , distracting from the
I find a strain of Neo-Platonic thought in Christianity from earliest times right
to the present. It seems to me that Christian mysticism owes much to the thought
of Plotinus, which has influenced Origen, Evagrius , the Cappadocians, Pseudo-
Dionysius, Augustine, and others. This same strain of thought appears in the
Middle Ages, for example in John Scotus Eriugena; later, in Eckhart and the
We find dualistic thought at its low level, "matter is evil", in the Albigen-
sians, and later in Quietism and Jansenism, whence some influences have filtered
into the Post-Tridentine religious foundations and into the re-foundations,
including the Dominican nuns.
We see this same thought affecting our thinking about work when we say that what
we do is unimportant "because it's not spiritual"; it is important only as an
occasion for merit or for its moral dimension. Listen to it now, in the monastic
literature, in the Apothegms of the Fathers: "It was said of her (Arrma Sarah)
that for sixty years she lived beside a river and never lifted her eyes to look
at it." And again:
One day a brother came to Abba John to take away some
baskets [to market them for the old man]. He came out
and said to him, "What do you want, brother?" He said,
"Baskets, abba." Going inside to bring them to him, he
forgot them, and sat down to weave. [This happened
three times.] Then, taking him by the hand, Abba John
led him inside, saying, "If you want the baskets, take
them and go away, because really, I have no time for
According to this orientation, the religious quest is, after all, a quest for
"higher things"; in the end we will slough off the body and the work of our
hands, and the unimpeded spirit will rise to be united to the Godhead. But
doesn't this perception remove us from the full scope of the Incarnation of God,
from created reality, and from history? It says that between ourselves and the
work of our hands, as well as the physical universe, there is no real connection;
there is only a moral and ethical one. Such thinking, it seems to me, betrays
a lack of respect for the ontological being of the world we live in, and it
leaves (some of us) with the unresolved experience of alienation.
III. THE OBJECTIVE DIMENSION
The Eschatological Finality of Earthly Realities
All of this section is simply to say that what we do and how we do it does indeed
have meaning and value. After all, as God made matter and things, he would stop
and admire and pronounce them "good." "Far from being remote, God is immediate
to us in our very materiality."
St. Irenaeus gives us a golden formula: "God created matter in time, in order
that man, nurtured in matter, should crown it with immortality." What bridges
the gap between spirit and matter or between humans and the cosmos is the human
person, body-spirit composite, in wholeness and integrity. We expend vast
amounts of time and energy on matter and the world of sense. And the teaching
of Vatican II is clear: "To believers, this point is settled: considered in
itself, such human activity accords with God's will....'
Evidence abounds in the monastic tradition, right alongside Neo-Platonism, for
what we sometimes call "the Aristotelian view" (which later became the Aristote-
lian/Thomistic synthesis) — a much more holistic treatment of human existence.
We see Anthony the Great emerging at the age of fifty-five from twenty years'
struggle with the demons, in peak physical condition, having attained (as far as
possible) to the state of humanity before the Fall. Again, at the end of his
life, the Father of Monks retires to the "Interior Mountain" to prepare for
death, but he plants a vegetable garden "in order to have something to feed his
guests." 1 That is, the human body and the physical universe are portrayed as
good and worthwhile.
Note that things are to be related to God through humanity, or through the human
person. Moreover, as Pope John Paul II teaches in Laborem Exercens, humans image
God as creator in that he has left to us a part of his own work to finish.
"Humans share by their work in the activity of the creator. . .and in a sense
continue to develop that activity." Not only that, but we have the promise
of "a new heavens and a new earth" (Rv 21:1). "The freedom in glory for which
the new man, the child of God... waits, is what has been promised; and in this
promise even the body... even the world, share," says Karl Barth in his
beautiful exegesis of the eighth chapter of Romans. And again, "the whole
universe is destined to eschatological participation in the glory of Christ."
I want to affirm the goodness of the sensible world which we humans, for good and
for ill, have done so much to transform. Fr. Chenu has it: "...Christ
recapitulates in [hu]man[s] the whole of reality, .. .all creation enters in some
way, through the glorification of the sons [and daughters] of God, into the
economy of salvation. This holistic doctrine takes into account all the
fruits of human genius, all the work of artists and artisans as well as that
child of human imagination — the computer. Finally, Pope John Paul II proclaims
that Christ, the man of work, "has appreciation and respect for human work. . . he
looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes." Is
not this perspective an affirmation of the part that monastics have traditionally
played in the development of human culture? And can we not include here, the
reverence for creation implied for us in the present period of history: that is,
concern for the environment and support for ecological advances?
IV. THE SUBJECTIVE DIMENSION
The change in thought about work (referred to earlier) which Christianity
introduces, seems not to have been understood or appreciated fully, until the
advent of the social teaching of the modern popes. Even today, within the Church
and secular society as well, this teaching awaits recognition and will not be
easily implemented. Pope John Paul sounds revolutionary as he insists
as a person, man is... the subject of work. . . [Tlhe
primary basis of the value of work is man himself , who
is its subject. .. .[In] the first place, work is "for
man" and not man "for work." Through this conclusion
one rightly comes to recognize the preeminence of the
subjective meaning of work over the objective one....
[E]ach sort [of work, he goes on to say] is judged above
all by the measure of the dignity of the subject of
work, that is to say, the person, the individual who
carries it out . . . . [I]t is always man who is the purpose
of the work ... even if the common scale of values rates
it as the merest "service," as the most monotonous, even
the most alienating.
The name of the "subjective factor" in monastic work should be, I submit, human
develotxnent . Developmental psychologists postulate certain stages in the human
life cycle, for each of which there exists a task to be accomplished for the
growth of the human person into full maturity. Happiness at the end of life
depends on the generosity with which one negotiates these successive stages.
This is not to suggest that those responsible for assigning work in the monastery
must tailor the task to each individual's supposed stage of development. Rather
it is to say that there should be an awareness of the potential of work for
contributing to the moral and psychological maturity and the human balance called
for by our Constitutions (cf. LCM 25, II; 26, IV; and 105 I). These echo Gaudium
et Spes (#67) of Vatican II, when they draw attention to the exercise of the
"powers of mind and heart" and the enhancing of the "gifts of nature and grace"
as we give ourselves to our work (LCM 104). Responsibility for one's own work
and utilization of each one's gifts within the framework of the common good
provide realistic impetus for personal growth (cf. LCM 20 II). And the call to
service prevents a narcissistic preoccupation with one's own development.
From her hands-on experience of factory work, Simone Weil, though pre-dating the
Pope some forty-five years, fleshes out his insistence on the preeminence of the
subjective factor: "...these actions must all serve to realize his humanity."
Simone wanted a thorough study of the instruments of labor, no longer from the
technical point of view, but "from that of their relation to the human person and
to human thought." She wrote that
work, in order to become that of a free person, must be
pervaded by thought, invention, and judgment. One must
therefore find machines of a different kind. . .consider-
ing them not only in terms of their efficiency, but also
in terms of how much thought they permit or demand of
In this context, may I suggest that the choice of "work which supplies the
necessities of life for the monastery" (LCM 107, I) be not too "narrowly
specialized, monotonous, and depersonalizing." 2
Also, can we hope that the monastic work which might be chosen would be of a kind
which contributes useful or necessary items or services, rather than marketing
luxury items in a society already sated with consumer goods? This, admittedly
an ideal, would seem to be in keeping with LCM 31, which demands of us a
solidarity with the working poor, and with the Order's "preferential option for
the poor . "
V. THE EFFECTS OF (XNTEMPORARY SOCIETY ON MONASTIC WORK
"The Cistercian [read: Dominican monastic] life is energetic," says Thomas
There are tides of vitality running through the whole
community that generate energy even in people who are
lazy. And here at Gethsemani we are at the same time
Cistercians and Americans. It is in some respects a
dangerous combination. Our energy runs away with us.
We go out to work like a college football team taking
the field. 21
It would be hard to overestimate the tyranny of the clock in our contemporary
Western culture. The pace of modern life in industrialized societies probably
needs no description even in this gathering. Someone from a small town visiting
Canada's mega-metropolis, Toronto, asked, at a subway station, "Who is chasing
all those people?" What should be noted is that this frenetic pace has invaded
the monasteries . Beginning the day at cock-crow, in earlier societies, allowed
for significant variation according to the amount of adrenalin in one's own or
the neighbor's bird. Times for doing things would have varied with the seasons.
Primitive war and agriculture allowed for significant "times off" or periods of
leisure. The number of holy days or holidays boggle the modern mind: 175
holidays were observed annually in 4th century Rome! And Rahner tells us:
Work itself contained the unexpected and unplanned- for;
it was always open to the novel intervention, it did not
of itself prescribe a fixed rate of procedure. It could
easily be adapted to men's moods; they could sing at it,
talk to each other, sit more loosely to it by taking
short rests or performing civic or religious rites and
If the demon that pursues monastics in the late twentieth century can be given
a name, that name, I think, should be the one Anne Lindberg offers: zerrissen-
heit, "torn-to-pieces-hood. If we take Evagrius's famous description of
acedia (in the twelfth chapter of the Praktikos ) and fill in all those gaps in
the monk's long, slow day with work, activity, hustle and bustle, we have a
picture of the hyperactive, workaholic nun. There is no laziness here, but there
is no time for study, lectio, or quiet prayer either.
In our own day, perhaps the chief damage inflicted upon the monastic ethos by
labor-saving devices is the erosion of prayer at work. We accomplish so much
more without really doing it. We push buttons and go away and do other things
and come back and the job is done. Automation tends to steal away the intervals,
those precious bits of time-between. The temptation is strong to make use of the
odd moments to push yet another button and get yet another job done, instead of
falling back into one's primordial freedom and meeting the Lord in the inner
spaces of the heart.
What Thomas Merton suggests to me is that, underneath their habits, American
monastics are still "Junior/Senior American Achievers." The question is, can we
be a part of our historical moment and our culture and still preserve monastic
values? If efficiency, accomplishment, achievement, are the gods of activism,
then it seems to me that the monastic response to the American work ethic is the
same as our response to the world, i.e. , love what is good in it, resist what is
futile and false and alien. The recovery of the meaning and value of work for
contemporary monastic life might require the paradoxical strategy of simply
reducing it: declare a free day once a week and investigate the benefits of
leisure. Someone questioned Abba Biare in these words, "What shall I do to
be saved?" He replied, "Go, reduce your appetite and your manual work, dwell
without care in your cell and you will be saved.'
VI. PRAYER AT WORK, WORK FOR PRAYER 23
While the whole movement of the nun's life as journey into God is her essential
"work," our Constitutions (LCM 106, II) define work as "any activity, manual or
intellectual, in which the nuns engage," but which is relegated in terms of
allotment of time to a place after prayer, reading, choir practice and study.
So much for priorities; what about the "unceasing prayer" of the monastic
"The whole purpose of the monk and indeed the perfection of his heart," says John
Cassian, "amount to this: total and uninterrupted dedication to prayer. . .This
is the reason for our tireless and unshaking practice of both physical work and
contrition of heart." In a census in my monastery, housework and gardening
showed strongly as kinds of work at which one can pray easily. One sister puts
automation, technology, tend to take the burden off the
body and put it on the mind. . .whereas the prayerful
quality of monastic work is exactly the opposite:
leaving the mind free while the rhythmic motion of the
body creates the atmosphere of tranquility necessary for
thought and union with God.
In his Ninth Conference on Prayer (Chapter 3), we have in a nutshell the whole
structure of Cassian's ascetical program, inherited from Evagrius. Let us note
for how that he gives special attention to predispositions for prayer—physical
as well as spiritual, external as well as internal. "In advance of prayer," he
says, "we must strive to dispose ourselves as we would wish to be during prayer.
The praying spirit is shaped by its own earlier condition." What he is
talking about here, I think, is that "harmonious ordering of the whole of our
lives for the continual remembrance of God" of which our Constitutions speak (cf .
LCM 74, IV).
I have talked earlier in this paper about the objective meaning and value of
human work. "God is immersed to the elbows in our materiality" -and we can
find him in our very consubstantiality with the "stuff" of our everyday world.
Brother Lawrence "found God everywhere, as much while he was repairing shoes as
while he was praying with the community." "When eating an orange, eat the
orange" the Zen Master will say. Do what you are doing and you will find God
What about work that engages the mind to a degree that prevents ruminating on the
Scriptures, repeating phrases from the psalms or the antiphons of the Office?
Fabio Giardini, O.P. , in his book PRAYERFULNESS , A PSYCHOTHFOLOGICAL SEARCH INTO
THE MEANING OF PRAYER, elucidates for us how the person of prayer remains united
to God-within, even during the most demanding intellectual activity. He writes:
To be prayerfully aware of God's presence can not
require any (actually impossible) unceasing conscious
attention to the Lord throughout all daily occupations.
It only demands that we become more and more pervaded
with the subconscious awareness of God's presence in our
whole life. . .
[He goes on: ]
. . .when the acts of prayer are over, our conscious
attention to the Lord cannot but end also, because
during our daily occupations the conscious attention of
our mind ought to focus on our work. ...the knowledge
and love of God which that conscious attenti on has
cultivated, confirmed, and deepened should not stop but
be carried over by the subconscious awareness of the
same Lord, which can be kept through all daily occupa-
tions. Like two sentries taking successive turns... so
the conscious attention to and the subconscious aware-
ness of the Lord should uninterruptedly follow each
other in the spirit of the prayerful person.
Giardini's careful text suggests an ambience of quietude, simplicity and harmony,
or in other words, the predispositions for prayer that ought to prevail in the
life of the Dominican nun.
We are not untouched, undisturbed, by the culture we live in. Our forebears of
past centuries would be unable to comprehend the pace of life in our monasteries
today. To counter the inroads of activism in our lives, I think we must first
reclaim the vision: "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 45:11). We must see
ourselves as seekers after God. How terrible to put accomplishment, achievement,
ahead of that knowing of God which is eternal life!
In the concrete, the monastery chapters have competence to discern and establish
the right balance in the schedule, to prioritize correctly, and especially to
provide the leisure time mandated by our Constitutions, #106. As the nuns mature
in religious life, there should be suitable freedom to organize each one's
personal schedule so as to reduce tension at work. While appropriate steps need
to be taken when there is objective overload, is it too simplistic to suggest
that personal discipline is often the first remedy called for by stress at work?
In particular, I would like to highlight two factors which I think will be
important for the future: Study and Formation.
Study. As this paramount Dominican observance takes hold in the monasteries,
activism will diminish. Here may I salute the Conference council and priest
consultant for their timely and farsighted leadership in this area. Study exerts
its own fascination: we now see nuns unashamed to spend afternoon hours reading
in their cells. Workaholism and activism will recede in the measure that we make
prior concerns real priorities in the daily schedule.
Formation : Adapted, rethought, revitalized, Cassian's teaching can be
transplanted into our time and culture. Three elements from his teaching would
seem to be of greatest importance: reciprocity , the working- together and mutual
influence of all the monastic practices; self-discipli ne, beginning with personal
asceticism; and balance , the new name for discernment or discretion. (There is
a tremendous need, I think, to establish the right balance in the schedule, to
prioritize correctly.) Let me demonstrate, if I can, the interplay of these
three elements in a work situation, as such interplay might be taught to novices:
Housework (which probably needs to be minimal ized) and gardening are apt
examples, as stated earlier, of work for prayer. The prayer formula of Cassian's
Conference 10, or something similar, would be used: "0 God, come to my
assistance. Lord, make haste to help me." But we cannot pray, at work or
elsewhere, without some degree of stillness of soul. The desert ethos is
insistent about the value of fasting for the quieting of the passions and
progress in virtue. Perhaps the new word for fasting, since so many candidates
have health problems, would be diet, or better, self-discipline in one's diet.
A proper diet is necessary for bodily health and is at the same time an
opportunity for serious self-discipline. The rhythm which enables prayer at work
must be calm and unhurried, yet balance for the sake of other elements in the
horarium requires that the time be limited. The loving union with God, learned
in prayer-at-work, results in the reciprocal benefit of growing ease in the
practice of the virtues. Faithfully, regularly, steadily practiced with gentle
insistence, such work situations will come to be cherished by the novice.
Attention to prayer at work, such a large element in the monastic fathers'
teaching, as well as at prayer-time, will implant subconscious awareness of God,
arming her for eventual incorporation into the community and the encounter with
This gathering this afternoon, Friday, September twenty-fifth, is perhaps unique
among the thousands of important meetings taking place in this country today.
It is a gathering of rare birds . We have come from East and West, North and
South. If this meeting could be transposed back fifteen and a half centuries,
what would it look like? We'd have arrived on foot, sunbaked and dusty, with
deeply tanned skin and a fair bit of it showing (the habit at the beginning was
a sleeveless linen shift...). Desert dwellers, the desert ascetics: the call
we have answered is the same as theirs! The ethos of the desert has always been
counter-cultural. We have managed, in late twentieth-century America, to
preserve islands of withdrawal and solitude in the midst of some of this
country's largest cities! A tiny minority in a vast population, a call rarely
Our response to the call that has been offered us lies, I suggest, in a return
to the center, not in a conservatism which tends to preserve structures while
stifling life, but in a conversion of heart which reaches to the very core of the
monastic ethos. And so we have come to this momentous gathering on the brink of
the twenty-first century, by car, by plane, by jumbo jet (we do not regret
progress). We have come to reclaim, as we have said, a vision. The occasion may
be important but we try to be humble. For we really are, I hope, simple and
humble women, like our desert forebears. Standing alongside the poor (I hope)
we work at humble labor, with hands, hearts, and minds. Sisters and daughters
of Dominic, our lives have to be, ultimately, love. Love and reverence for all
God's creation, which shares our travail . Love and reverence for one another and
our brothers, the friars. Love and reverence for all races, all creeds, all
colors; all of, humankind, in other words, progressing as we are toward the
Redemption. We are "monos": alone, with God, in whom all things exist, and
therefore one with the entire cosmos.
1. M. D. Chenu, 0.?., THE THEOLOGY CF WORK, tr. Lilian Soi row, (Chicago:
P.egr.ery Co., 1966) p. 3.
2. Hannah Arendt, THE HUMAN CONDITION , (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books,
1953). I am indebted to Ms. Arendt for most of this section.
3. Frederick Copleston, A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY , (New York: Doubleday
Co., 1965) 7 : part 2, chs. 15 and 16.
4. THE DESERT CHRISTIAN: Sayings of the Desert Father s, trans. M.
Benedict a Ward, S.L.G., Macmi 1 1 an Co . , Inc., N.Y. 1975, p. 230, no. 3.
5. Ibid., p. 91, no. 30.
6. Cf. SPIRITUALITIES OF THE HEART, ed. Ami ce Callahan, R.S.C.J., (New
York: Paulist Press, 1990) esp. ch. 2: rrenaeus: At the Heart of Life, Glory,
Mary Ann Donovan, S.C., pp. 11-22. See also ADULTHOOD , ed. Erik Erikson, (New
York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1978) Chapter: "Christian Adulthood", pp. 80-96.
Numerous other sources could be cited.
7. Chenu, THEOLOGY OF WORK , p. 104.
8. Gaudium et Spes, THE DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II , Abbot-Gallagher edition,
(New York: Guild Press, 1966) #34. See also #67.
9. St. Athanasius, THE LIFE OF ANTONY , (New York: Paulist Press, 1980)
10. Ibid. , p. 69.
11. Pope John Paul II, LABOREM EXERCENS: ENCYCLICAL ON HUMAN WORK,
(Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1981) ch. 25, p. 57. (Hereinafter cited as L.E.)
12. Karl Barth, THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS , 6th ed. , tr. Edwyn C. Hoskyns
(Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1933, 1960) p. 309.
13. SACRAMENTUM MUNDI , ed. Karl Rahner, S.J. et al . , "Natural Law" (New
York: Herder and Herder, 1970) 6: 157-164.
14. M. D. Chenu, "Work", SACRAMENTUM MUNDI , 6: 369.
15. L.E. , ch. 26, p. 59.
16. cf . L.E. , ch. 6, pp. 16-17.
17. cf. Erik Erikson, "Reflections on Dr. Borg's Life Cycle", ADULTHOOD ,
ed. Erik Erikson (New York: W. W. Norton S< Co., 1978) =h. 1.
13. L.E. , ch. 6, p. 15.
19. Simone Petrement, SIMONE WEIL: R LIFE , tr. Raymond Rosenthal [New
York: Pantheon Books, 1976) p. 24C.
?homas Merton, THE SIGN OF JONAS (Mew York: Harcourt , Brace S Co.
1953) p. 41.
::. G. Dahl, WORK., PLAY AND WORSHIP , quoted by Michael Ryan in SOL I BAP. IT "/
(London, Ontario: Divine Word Publications,, 1986).
23. Karl Rahner , THEOLOGICAL IN V ESTIGATIONS (Baltimore, Md: Helicon
Press, 1966) vol. 4, ch. 16, "Theological Remarks on the Problem of Leisure",
24. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, GIFT FROM THE SEA (New York: Random. House,
1978) p. 56.
25. For an analysis of acedia , cf . Joseph Pieper, LEISURE: THE BASIS SF
CULTURE (New York: Pantheon Books, 1963) ch. 3, pp. 38 ff.
26. Cf. Pieper, op. cit.
27. THE DESERT CHRISTIAN , p. 44, #1.
28. This section presupposes that my audience is familiar with M. Marie
Rosaria's excellent paper, "Manual Labor, A Monastic observance for Dominican
Nuns", DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH, vol. 10, (Fall/Winter 1991), pp. 51-62.
29. John Cassian, CONFERENCES , Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the
Christian Church, tr. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1964) vol. 11, ch. 2, p. 387.
30. This paper reflects the thoughts of many of my sisters, both in my own
and in other monasteries, for which I am most grateful.
31. Cassian, ch. 3.
32. SPIRITUALITIES OF THE HEART , ?. 12.
33. Brother Lawrence, THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD (Philadelphia
Pa.: Whi taker House, 1982) p. 90.
34. Eileen P. O'Hea, C.S.J. , "Detachment in Our Psychological Age", REVIEW
FOR RELIGIOUS, (July/Aug 1992) p. 541.
35. Fabio Giardim, P.P., PRAYERFULNESS , A PSYCHOLOGICAL SEARCH INTO THE
MEANING CF PRAYER , (Milan: Massino, 1984) ?. 53. 'Emphasis nine] . See alsi 7 .
67 , paragraph 1 .
PURSUING COMMUNION IN GOVERNMENT
ROLE OF COMMUNITY CHAPTER
Father Malachy O'Dwyer
At first sight one might wonder what might be the
relationship between Dominican Vision and Communion in
Government. Surely, it will be said that the vision of the
Dominican Family is to be found in the first section of the
Book of Constitutions dealing with the life of the brothers or
of the sisters -- in those parts dealing with religious
consecration, prayer, study, ministry or work, formation --
rather than in the second section dealing specifically with
government. At least it is not likely that one who sets out to
capture the spirit, the charism, of the Dominican Order, will
begin with the section on government.
s of t
are f o
f we e
s , far
n fact ,
m the f
But whatever the precise proportion might be, it must be
admitted that we give a lot of space to matters dealing
specifically with government, with how we organize ourselves.
Inspiration and Institution
I would argue that, unless we understand the laws, the
norms, which govern our relationships within the family of
Dominic and within each of its parts, it is very difficult to
have a true understanding of the vision which Dominic had "when
he founded the Order. Dominic has not left us writings of any
substance but he has bequeathed to us institutions which embody
his spirit and his vision. Hence the importance for us to
appreciate and to be a part of these living institutions.
Unfortunately, for some time we have been caught up in a
tide of an t i-1 egal ism which has swept through the Church. It
was felt that an excessive emphasis on legal norms had blurred
the basic vision of the Christian vocation and there was
obviously much truth in this. But for us the vision and the
spirit of Dominic are so interwoven into the fabric of the
norms, the organization, which rule our lives, that one cannot
ignore the latter without running the risk of losing sight of
the former .
These (Constitutions) rule us and not the ideas of
any individual or individuals. We are Dominicans and
our life is only possible as long as we obey our
( Bede Jarrett ,
"Letter to George Bowring, 30 July
of Bede Jarrett (Downside Abbey and
Blackfriars Publications, 1989), p. 148.)
If we are to recover or reclaim the Dominican vision for
the 21st century we must look to the institutions which have
been bequeathed to us. And it is only through living them in
practice that we will regain that vision to which we all
... but all subscribe thoughtlessly to many beliefs,
the truth of which does not strike home to us until
experience gives them reality. Wisdom may be rented,
so to speak, on the experience of other people, but
we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it
our own forever.
1986), p. 428.)
The Salterton Trilog y (Penguin,
If we base our appreciation of the Dominican vision on the
first section of our constitutions, then it is rented, second-
hand and incomplete. It is only when we live according to the
second section of those same constitutions that we truly
discover the reality of our vocation and make it our own.
Charism and Community
Marie-Humbert Vicaire is very explicit in affirming the
connection between the charism of Dominic and the community
which he founded. The thread of Dominic's inspiration is
finely interwoven into the fabric of the life of the community.
The genius of the Father of the Friars Preachers was
to have invented a community capable of inspiring,
forming and making use of such preachers, planting
them on Christian soil as well as beyond it. No one
in the West up till then succeeded in doing this. No
evangelical preacher had succeeded in handing on his
charism and his ministry by means of a community that
was lasting and effective.
(Marie-Humbert Vicaire, O.P., The Genius of St .
Dominic (Dominican Publications, Nagpur, India),
Vicaire also points out the principal method which Dominic
used to ensure both the continuation and the development of his
vision and inspiration.
he f r
ths , an
r , and
n of al
y as s
: ■ Qu
(ibid., p. 41.)
Dominic's vision, his inspiration, is communicated to his
brethren in such a way that it becomes the creation of all. He
inspired others by sharing his vision and allowing it to take
root and mature in them in such a manner that it seems to come
as much from themselves as from him. He allows them to make it
their own and give it a shape to their own liking.
The care with which he sought
the best effort he was capab
another characteristic of St. Do
the collective activity, wheth
discipline, he gave precedenc
communion. . . . His spontane
community of his brethren, his d
one the maximum of initiative
our common work is concerned,
seeing the system work was seen
last days of his life at the conv
c : hi
e f r
t ion or
(ibid., pp. 121-122.)
The mechanism by which this is achieved is very simple.
He brings the brethren together and tells them that they must
decide how they shall live and work together. This coming
together, this sharing and deciding together, is what we call
Person and Project
The shape which Dominic gave to his Order seems very
simple. But it is important to understand the implications,
the unspoken and unwritten values which lie beneath the fabric
of our way of life.
t ion o
e at te
m , he
ry t hi n
f e , an
e to t
Id ha v
e to 1
i st e
e 1 e
him t h
i s f ami
e t o co
t hem .
ef ul 1 y
eed t h
ng at t
ip w i
v e wh
r i s a
en t i v e
e a 1 s c
his companions would have to fit and by
formed. He was well aware that their
Which they w u u x u u c i u j.- hi c u • hc v» a o ncxj. a r» a i" e tiiau unei
vocation was not of his making but a free gift of God which h
should accept humbly and cherish.
If they were
preaching, they had
of the one who
every member of
to each . Only
wished for the
called to join him in his project of
first of all to be attentive to the voice
had called them. And it was important that
the group should know what the Lord was saying
in this way could it be known what the Lord
group as a whole. A system had to be devised
both the freedom of God to speak as he wished
and the freedom of each to express their understanding of what
God was saying to each personally.
i t wen
t ry i
election as Master
guestion, "What was
authority as prior
Interview for IDI, after his
of the Order -- reply is to the
it like to begin the service of
of Blackfriars? And afterwards,
Nature and Nurture
The system devised by Dominic must have seemed to some a
sure recipe for anarchy and disintegration. But in fact the
miracle is that the family of Dominic has never in its 700
years lost its unity. If not a blueprint for self-destruction,
it must have seemed to many a dream, an ideal, for a utopic
society in which everyone had an egual right to say what they
wished and the assurance that they would be heard respectfully.
Let me read to you part of the conclusion of a book
entitled Culture and Society , written by Raymond Williams, in
which he proposes that the only way forward for modern society
is through a system of mutual sharing and participation. When
I first read this book a number of years ago, I reflected then
that this, for a Dominican, was no dream for the future but a
living reality -- or, at least, that our system tried to make
it a lived reality. But let Williams speak for himself.
re , wh
r t u
ng 1 i v
li zed .
e in c
ho s t a
now , 1
s , n
is no f
s t ar t e
n to an
y s l
1 1 ac
i ch is
om , we
f eren t
hmen t ,
The practical liberty of thought and expression is
less a natural right than a common necessity. The
growth of understanding is so difficult that none of
us can arrogate to himself, or to an institution or a
class, the right to determine its channels of
advance. To tolerate only this or that, according to
some given formula, is to submit to the fantasy of
having occupied the future and fenced it into
fruitful or unfruitful ground.
We have to plan what can be planned, according to our
common decision. But the emphasis of the idea of
culture is right when it reminds us that a culture,
essentially, is unplannable. We have to ensure the
means of life, and the means of community. But what
will then, by these means, be lived, we cannot know
or say .
(Raymond Williams, Culture and Society (Pelican),
e f o
if e o
de t erm
, of co
ine , wh
t wh ic
v i dual
s is c
e so w
n be d
d f aci
f r ame w
ogi s t .
f u 1 to
o r k of
necessary to ensure the survival of the
We are often tempted to think and behave otherwise. It is
all too easy to think that we have fully grasped what we like
to call the "Dominican Ideal" and that we must hold on to it
tightly and make sure that others understand it as we do. But
that is to attempt to create something in our own image rather
than respect the image which God is gently and slowly bringing
to fruition in each of his creatures. This is the danger,
that, through excessive zeal or perhaps through fear of losing
something precious, we might distort if not destroy that which
we claim to cherish. Here again we might listen attentively to
the words of Raymond Williams.
d it is
h at t
; a d
Is of g
rms ; w
s on 1
es . T
o j e c t
t i ves
(ibid., p. 321.)
Because the system and structure of government in the
Dominican Family are a cherished part of our
heritage, combining a deep respect for the individual
a corresponding vision of shared
for the building up of community and
of authority, we encourage our sisters
their efforts to implement their
which faithfully reflect this vision of
and ordered participation of all in
l.V; 7; 181)
achieve the aims of the Order. (cf. LCM
(Acts of General Chapter of Oakland, no. 157.)
Unity and Diversity
Herein lies the genius of Dominic. He was able to create
a system which would both confirm and respect the gifts, the
talents, the graces of each and also confirm and strengthen the
community which is even larger than the individual gifts.
What is even more obvious from my having lived the
life is Dominic's intent that the unique talents of
each individual should not be stifled but rather
enhanced and the potential brought to its fullest
actualization. I view us as 'a unity in and through
diversity.' We are very diverse people but the
uniqueness is brought together in a life of charity
in communi t y .
(David M. Hynous, O.P., Canonical Visitation, 1984.)
It is a system which is able to support and encourage
diversity without creating separation. But it is not a simple
system. It is a complex organization requiring constant
attention, reevaluation and adjustment. But this is a sign of
true democracy, true freedom.
I wonder whether there is not also a connection
between true democracy, true freedom, and the
impermanence of the models we revere. . . . It is
as though democracy can only thrive on the sharing --
and then perhaps on the shearing — of illusion, and
can flourish only on the ruins of permanence.
A genuinely democratic culture, however, like the
carefully balanced life of an individual human being,
is a fragile thing, the more valuable for the built-
in impermanence of everything it embodies.
(Jacques Darras, Beyond
(Macmillan, 1990), p. 15.)
the Tunnel of History
The system of government, of living together, which
Dominic has bequeathed to his family is a texture which is
loosely woven, leaving big enough gaps through which our own
life can send its threads and designs. And we must be careful
to leave it so. Sometimes, in the name of a false unity, we
tend to tighten and tidy up that flexibility which is part of
our heritage .
o t w
1 1 in
i v i n
in f r
uri t y
ng 1 i
i es o
s t eps .
i r real
t y , but
( Rabindranath Tagore, Nat ional ism (Macmillan India
Limited ) , p . 31 . )
The Dominican way of living together requires much
patience and perseverance, and the involvement of all in a
common seeking and sharing. It is a way of life which seeks to
elicit the best from each but which is simultaneously gentle
with the shortcomings of each. And perhaps the latter is more
important than the former.
It is the imperfections, the roughage, the
accommodation of inconsistency and of the eccentric,
of the grand and the petty, the precise and the
asymmetrical that is the touchstone of the mature
political culture that we have developed.
(Darras, Beyond the Tunnel of History , p. 14.)
Amos Oz makes the same point in his book, The Slopes of
ti ti ve
e of c
(Amos Oz, The Slopes of Lebanon (Vintage, London,
1991), p. 73.)
We, too, accept pluralism as a blessing which enriches our
common heritage. For us it is not divisive because the
framework which Dominic gave to his family provided explicitly
for such diversity. He did not wish the richness which comes
from God to be suffocated by our human smallness. There is no
human model, no human framework, which can adequately
accommodate the presence of God. Hence the need to be forever
reevaluating and pondering upon the way we live our lives.
This might seem precarious and adventurous. So be it
served the Order well over the centuries.
We are pilgrims with no fixed abode and for us "the making
of a community is always an exploration" ... "a community
of those who seek the truth . . . "
The real community of man, in the midst of all the
self -contradictory simulacra of community, is the
community of those who seek the truth, of the
potential knowers, that is, in principle, of all men
to the extent they desire to know. But in fact this
includes only a few, the true friends, as Plato was
to Aristotle at the very moment they were disagreeing
about the nature of good. Their common concern for
the good linked them; their disagreement about it
proved they needed one another to understand it.
(Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (Simon
and Shuster, New York, 1987) , p. 381. )
Freedom and Responsibility
t is i
e we e
t of o
1 y m
i nd of
But let me read to you part of a pamphlet written many
years ago by Vincent McNabb.
I entered a long alleyway of thought
the Friar Preachers' birthright of
So wide is this reign of freedom that no
r in the Church may be compared with it;
so subtle that it reaches to the fine
between soul and spirit. Indeed, at first
perhaps at second and third sight, the
n of the Order is so interwoven with
of freedom that it seems to hold every
destruction. Scarcely is there to be
mathematical or mechanical force of
everywhere the elements of the Order seem
loosely articulate with that most unaccountable
factor, the human freewill; and that most unruly
exercise of the human freewill, the free and secret
ballot. By ten thousand psychological laws, the
Order founded by Dominic Guzman, the friend and the
Father of Parliaments, ought to be dead or at least
divided. But it is alive and one.
he warns of the temptation to tamper with our
en t ,
Order ' s
(Vincent McNabb, O.P., The Gyves of Freedom
(Blackf riars , Hawkseyard), p. 6-8.)
Today, perhaps, we need to be on our guard against a more
subtle and insidious attack on freedom, one which is all the
more dangerous and destructive because very often it is hidden
and practiced unwittingly. Those who are called to join the
Family of Dominic depend on those who are already members for
much of their formation. They are in a position of dependency
and can be easily manipulated. But such manipulation, if
practiced, is altogether foreign to the spirit of Dominic.
L iberacion y
Diez, O.P. ,
( Dec 1 e Brower ,
... the task of forming consciences demands a
superhuman responsibility, and the attempt to
manipulate them is a sin without par.
(ibid. , p. 15. )
Dominic had a profound respect for his early companions
and profound respect, too, for the work of the Spirit in their
lives. In his dealings with them there is no taint of
manipulation, no attempt to bend them to his will.
Vision Rather Than Coercion
y ' s
er , mu
rali t y
t at i on
d , w
i z i ng
n t e
fulfilment of one's human potentialities
happiness, or Aquinas's beatitude.
( John Mahoney , 5.3.
Study of the Roman
The Making of Moral Theology, A
Catholic Tradition (Clarendon
Press), p. 220.)
We have inherited the mechanism, the framework, by which
the project of Dominic can be lived and realized today.
Perhaps what we need is to recover the vision which gave life
to that project at the beginning. Or perhaps what we need is
the conviction that the practical realization of such a vision
I suggest that the only way of reclaiming the Dominican
vision for our times, and recovering, too, the conviction that
the living of that vision is possible, is by living according
to the system of government which has been bequeathed to us.
"Prayer, Study, and the Life of Withdrawal"
William Columban Barron, O.P.
I have been asked in this paper to address the topic of
study and the Dominican life of withdrawal. To do this well it
is first necessary to answer the question, what is the world from
which the nun withdraws? The necessity of answering this
question is obvious because it touches upon the nun's vocation to
participate in her Lord's mission to save the world. What is
there about the world that needs salvation, specifically a
salvation which will benefit it by the nun's withdrawal?
Confronted with the task of defining the world, I feel much
like the cosmologist who began her lecture by saying, "The topic
of today's talk is everything." Nevertheless, let me begin by
stating that "world" has many possible definitions. I have
decided to provide here the critical understanding of "world"
theorized by the western Marxists of the Frankfurt School. I do
this because they do not share with us a Christian perspective.
Their definition of world cannot be said of itself to further
Christian interests. In addition to this, Herbert Marcuse, one
of the Frankfurt theorists to whom I will refer momentarily,
offers a compelling, and, I believe, an accurate, picture of an
unjust human situation in which world is essentially a deception
parading as reality. Since it is from this world that people
take their self-understanding, and further, since it is under its
categories that they must live out their lives, the unmasking of
the deception is paramount. However, there can be no unmasking
and no commencement of authentic human existence because, by this
theory I am employing, the mechanisms which construct the world
as real always succeed in re- incorporat ing any oppositional
elements seeking to reveal and concretely overthrow its
However, it is not just the world that is deceptive. The
individual as personally defined within the world's semantics is
also illusory. Leo Lowethal's analysis of the incorporation of
the individual into a cultural personality through the format of
literary biography will serve as one example -- there are many —
of how the individual cannot escape the world any more than human
society can escape it.
If no one can escape the world, how then does the nun do
it? And in doing it, how does she in turn unmask the world's
debilitating falsehoods? When we answer these questions, we will
then be able to locate the practice of individual study in the
communal life and salvific witness of the Dominican nun.
In Matthew 5:38, Jesus commands the disciples to offer no
resistance to the evildoer. Few other admonitions of the Lord so
clearly indicate his desire that both the Christian individual
and the Christian community be practical countersigns to human
society in the world. This precept, so enigmamatic at first
hearing, opposes the fundamental mechanism whereby the world
alters those who contravene its ruling trends. Since the advent
of market capitalism, whose product is the modern world, the
rupture in social relations which it entails has been the
constant concern of the dominant social groupings which both
determine and benefit from control of the means and relations of
production. Society's cultural formations function at the
service of the dominant political and economic class which needs
to produce images of itself for consumption by those who are
antagonized by its power, values, and interests. Culture
supplies the illusion of a real world which veils the gap between
the self-interests of the dominant class and those whose real
social relations are dissembled by it. Within culture a realm of
apparent unity and freedom is created where the beneficiary class
establishes the hegemony of its own values and in which the
oppositional relations of the real world of social and economic
relations appear to be stabilized and pacified (Marcuse, p. 96).
In this way, the culture of advanced capitalism always affirms
and conceals the permanent inequalities and injustices of
concrete social life (Marcuse, P. 96).
With respect to the individual, contemporary culture
enshrouds this entity with its own notions of personality, and
establishes it as the bearer of culture. This personality is a
beautiful image which, because it is specifically the ideational
similitude of the individual, is well suited for consoling and
confirming the isolated concrete man or woman (Marcuse, p. 122).
Although the historical moment is veiled by the culture of
the dominant class, nonetheless, individual experience on the
level of concrete life belies its ideal happiness: "...The
universality of this happiness is immediately canceled, since the
abstract equity of men realizes itself in capitalist production
as concrete inequality" (Marcuse, p. 97). The cultural
obfuscation of social experience wears thin and the gap between
illusion and experience begins to become transparent. Once this
gap appears, the need arises to re-veil it by the mechanisms of
culture. In our own country, beginning earlier in this century,
one of the ways of accomplishing this has been by the literature
of fact, of which the biography is a primary example.
Like the novel and short story, the biography aesthet icizes
the cultural personality but in a way that brings the realm of
culture close to the everyday experience of political, economic,
and social relations thereby closing the gap once again. The
literature of fact reaches directly into the material sphere to
lay hold of living exemplars of the hegemonic culture. Early in
the century, when the gap was once more showing itself,
biographers introduced the "idols of production" into literature
emphasizing not their unique traits but their real individual
powers, standardizing them according to the current national
scene (Lowenthal, p. 113). These biographic heroes
(industrialists, politicians, professionals, businessmen,
religious leaders) could be pointed to in extra-literary life as
active members of society engaged in the determining events of
history. The illusory deceptiveness of their literary lives was
achieved by an emphasis on the individuality of their talent and
drive. However, their seeming "individuality" was nothing other
than a personality constructed by the culture which held out to
the reader the promise of happiness in an aestheticized formula
for success. These heroes were mere symbols, not real people.
The reader, educated by the biography format, was encouraged to
imitate these ideological symbols of the dominant class by
thinking that these heroes were not different than
himself /herself . If the older literary forms of the novel and
short story delivered happiness through escape, these biographies
of the idols of production presented it as attainable through
At sometime in the 1920 's, the biographies of the idols of
production became biographies of the idols of consumption. The
new heroes were almost exclusively popular entertainers and
sports figures (Lowenthal, p. 114-15). The social relations of
this next generation of heroes are represented as totally
privatized. They are static beings to whom things happen --
things that make them successful -- without their having to act
to realize them. They have had the "breaks" that others have not
had and so cannot be said to be responsible for their own
success. The heroes of sports and entertainment are segmented
individuals and their historicity is represented only by a series
of facts not actions. Lacking integration into the processes of
history, their only activity is a passivity: they consume.
This next generation of biographers selected these
individuals out of real experience based specifically upon the
criterion of consumption: what they eat, what they wear, what
they smoke, what they drive, etc. (Lowenthal, p. 118). These
biographies aestheticize the ideological personality as having
already achieved happiness in commodity consumption. Moreover,
although their lives are configured as symbols of the consumers
who read about them, in real life they are themselves semantic
products of the entertainment and sports industries. The heroes
of the older biographies could be pointed to in concrete life as
efficient causes of the very economic and cultural hegemonies
they exemplified. Entertainers and ballplayers are exemplars of
industrial products. In the world of concrete experience they
simply signify how far into the personality the commodif ication
process has extended itself.
These symbolic personalities -- symbols even in the concrete
world of experience — are already agglomerations of various
commodity relations. When made the subjects of popular
biographies, the pure character of the commodity culture which
they represent is brought before the reader as image of
himself /herself . In consuming that illusion, the reader
dissipates as an individual and recovers his/her personality only
through identification with the market forces which have already
determined him or her. The new personality is an instance of the
standardized mass, and that which was (would have been)
antagonistic is absorbed into the illusion of consumptive
The imaged world which an unjustified society produces
through the values and needs of its leading class effectively
resists those evildoers who would otherwise seek to restructure
the social relations under which they labor. By the historical
illusions of world and personality, the dominant class mystifies
itself and anesthetizes those other social classes, and the
individuals who compose them, against radical changes in the
concrete human condition. Even violent revolution, whether
arising from marginalized social groups, or inspired by the
consciousness raising of an historical vanguard, has proven quite
recently to be incapable of justifying the seemingly irredeemable
facts and trajectory of human social life. The world created by
Marxist parties simply employs different cultural mechanisms to
veil the gap between a dominant class and those alienated by its
particular interests. The personality of the individual was no
less a standardized instance of the ideological mass in the
Communist world than it is in the capitalist.
Conditioned as we are by the cultural programmat ics of the
American scene to view the "free" world as radically different
from the Communist — or from all others, for that matter -- we
tend to recoil at the suggestion that essentially all "worlds"
are the same. Simply defined, the world is always society's
image of itself. As I have indicated, the unjustified,
unregenerate nature of all human societies necessitates that the
world which societies produce and concretize by historical action
will always be illusory. Jesus banishes illusion by the
revelation of a new approach. Jesus did not resist the
evildoer. Instead, he loved those who abused him and those whom
the world abuses. By this single fact, he offered the perfect
counterpoise to the intrinsic false consciousness of the world.
He brought the Father's rain to fall on the just and the unjust;
upon those who foster human alienation and upon those whose
alienation is left unreconciled by cultural concealment. Seen
from the world of Christ, all people are equally malefactors and
their worlds equally unjust. But he came not to condemn them but
to save them/ not to resist them but to invite them in love. He
did this because human society is caught up in something that is
very much like a vicious circle.
Society is constituted by the concrete actions of its
individual members. But society also produces the world as image
of itself and continually constitutes itself historically by that
self-image. The world includes the individual as person. What
we are and the way in which we interrelate and act --all this is
already contained in what the world as image conditions us to
be. We, as constituents of society, make ourselves to be what we
are. This is our historical definition, our actual concrete
nature. We keep producing worlds out of the worlds we have
produced yet our worlds are illusions, untruths about ourselves
and injustices which we cannot remedy. No world is adequate to
the vocation of society, namely, human happiness. We need a new
world in which to be new persons, happy in a just society.
However, we can escape neither the world we make nor our
responsibility for its radical disorder. But "if anyone is in
Christ, he or she is a new creation. The old order has passed
away; now all is new! All this has been done by God who has
reconciled us to himself through Christ... I mean that God, in
Christ, was reconciling the world to himself, not counting men's
transgressions against them... God made Christ who did not know
sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness
of God" (2Cor. 5: 17-21 ) .
Jesus is the image of the Father, the Logos through whom the
world was made as human image of God. It is likewise through
Jesus, the only true image of God, that we as individuals are
claimed as persons out of our illusive world, the historical
world of our making, and reconstituted as persons in the person
of God, Jesus Christ ("Father, they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world ... consecrate them by means of
truth..." Jn 17:14,17). In Jesus, the perichoretic society of
God enters the world; and through those reborn in his person, a
new world finally appears. It is this true image shared by the
followers of Christ that actively stands against the image human
society has made of itself. The world hates this new image of
redeemed humanity because love is alien to its scheme ("The
reason the world hates you is that you do not .belong to the
world. But I have chosen you out of the world." Jn 15:19). The
world tries to bring Christ's image under its illusions but
cannot. This demonstrates to those who share Jesus' image that
they are protected by his prayer ("For these I pray — not for the
world but for these you have given me for they are really yours."
Jn 17:9); and that they love with his love, a disposition not of
this world's making ("If you belonged to the world it would love
you as its own." Jn 15:19). For his followers, Christ's refusal
to resist the evildoer entails a suffering love ("They will harry
you as they harried me." Jn 15:20. "You will weep and mourn
while the world rejoices. You will grieve for a time..." Jn
16:20). Jesus' new world of redeeming love, however, will not
be defeated by this world's opposition ("You will suffer in the
world. But take courage! I have overcome the world." Jn 16:33).
Note, however, the world's opposition is both active and
passive. In taking what was created as the human image of God
and rendering it into an exclusively human image, human society
is only capable of recognizing itself in its various historical
worlds and can no longer recognize its true image which comes
through Christ ("He was in the world, and through him the world
was made, yet the world did not know who he was." Jn 1:10).
Those who are reconstituted in the world as its redemptive
counterpoise, the image of the new humanity, are (and should be)
unrecognizable to the world: they are in the world as Jesus was
("As you have sent me into the world so I have sent them into the
world." Jn 17:18). The world will recognize only what is its
own. Thus the community of those freed by Christ from slavery to
the world's illusive self-image will be recognized only through
belief, that is, when the world comes to believe that Jesus has
been sent by the Father. The world is brought to this belief by
observing the unity of the community of those regenerated in
Christ ("I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may
believe that you sent me." Jn 17:21). This unity is the image
of what is generated in Christ's followers by the perichoresis of
God ("As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Live on
in my love. You will live in my love if you keep my
commandments... My command is this: love one another as I have
loved you." Jn 15:9, 12).
Because it loves in all instances and for no worldly reason,
the community of Jesus cannot be construed as oppositional by the
world's programmat ics . Moreover, the love-f or-one-another which
constitutes the new humanity forestalls the dissembling illusions
of the world. By so doing, it models for humanity that unity of
the Trinity which is the world's only hope for ending the vicious
cycle of its own concrete untruth (Kasper, p. 284).
Finally, because in God substance and relation are really
identical, as Walter Kasper reminds us, unity and independence
are greater than in the created world: God is absolutely
undivided unity and so must also be infinite differentiation
(Kasper, p. 283). The personal freedom of those who are
regenerated in Christ is absolute --a freedom which the world
cannot give. In Kasper's words, "The unity with God that is
established by Jesus Christ neither absorbs nor dissolves the
human person (as do the economic and socio-cultural mechanisms
which incorporate the individual as an element of the world); it
means, rather, an abiding distinction and thus is the basis for
authentic independence and freedom. In Christianity the
mysticism of unity between God and man and between man and Christ
is a mysticism of encounter, friendship and communion with God;
it is realized in and through human encounter, friendship and
communion, and in turn radiates outward into human friendship and
communion and attains its full stature in these" (Kasper, pp. 284-
85). Christ's command that we love one another as he has loved
us makes the unity of God manifest at the same time that it
recreates the individual person in freedom making him or her
independent of the image of the world and its conditioning.
The Dominican nun withdraws from the world by a special call
of God in order to live freely the life of Christ in a community
of free women whose unity and mutual love calls the world to its
vocation to believe in the one whom the Father has sent. It is a
redemptive vocation ■ — for the individual/ the community, and the
world. The nuns realize this vocation by hearing Christ's voice
in its purity in silence, by celebrating his word in the liturgy,
by meeting him in sacred scripture, and by receiving him in his
body and blood. They become one living sign of the saving Word
himself, preserving in their very persons the image that shares
and saves, begins and consummates human history ("Called by God,
like Mary, to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his words,
they are converted to the Lord, withdrawing from the empty
preoccupations and illusions of the world." LCM 1. III.). Or, in
the words of Dostoyevsky, "They are in truth made ready in peace
and quiet 'for the day and the hour, the month and the year'.
Meanwhile, in their solitude, they keep the image of Christ fair
and undefiled, in the purity of God's truth, from the times of
the Fathers of old, the Apostles and the martyrs. And when the
time comes they will show it to the tottering creeds of the
world" ( The Brothers Karamazov ).
"The nuns of the Order of Preachers came into being when our
holy Father Dominic gathered women converts to the Catholic faith
in the monastery of Blessed Mary of Prouille" (LCM 1. I.). These
women he withdrew from the world so that he always had a clear
and concrete example for his hearers of that which he preached.
Moreover, knowing that faith seeks understanding, but that
understanding relies upon the meanings generated by the world,
Dominic recognized how easily the understanding of the faith
could be penetrated and confused by the world. He made it the
mission of the Friars Preachers to reclaim for the mind the
possibility of understanding what it believes without confusion
or admixture of error. This vocation necessitates being where
the meanings, alienations, and illusions of the world are: in the
world of human making. The friar was to experience and live, to
a certain extent, the world's meanings, alienations, and
illusions. To preach the Truth, one must take upon oneself the
image of the world as the Truth himself did when he came among
us. This is a dangerous, perilous vocation because the world
claims as its own all who walk its labyrinths. However, as Jesus
never left the society of the Trinitarian unity and love, the
friar never is without the real, concrete model of that
perichoretic love in the monasteries of his sisters, the nuns.
The active witness of that love-f or-one-another which marks the
nuns' vocation strengthens and safeguards the vocational mission
of Dominic and his brothers by its stability and freedom from the
world's illusions. In fact, I believe that the preaching work of
the Order could not have begun, at least as Dominic envisioned
it, until the nuns had been established in their withdrawal, and
the image of Jesus Christ had been brought forth into the world
by the nuns' ardent longing for the fulness of the Holy Spirit
(LCM 1. IV.).
The nuns locate themselves by a divine call in a place where
the world's meanings are silenced in order to hear the word of
God so that it will not return to him empty but may accomplish
those things for which it was sent (LCM 1. II.). Their "hidden
life" (LCM 1. V.) is a silent one by necessity then. "The nuns
listen to the word, celebrate it and keep it in their hearts, and
in this way proclaim the gospel of God by the example of their
lives" (LCM 96. I.). It is not enough to be physically separated
from the world so as to proclaim Christ and be transformed into
his image; the nun also cultivates silence. The world
cultivates and propagates its meanings through language — we
carry the world even in our minds. Silence in the enclosure,
silence within the nun, suppresses the world's words and permits
the Word of God to be conceived.
"The Blessed Dominic 'rarely spoke except with God in
prayer, or about God...'." Perhaps it would be drawing the line
of distinction too sharply between the nuns and friars of the
Order to say that the nuns are Dominic speaking with God in
prayer, and the friars are Dominic speaking about God. I say too
sharply because the nuns share as well in the ministry of the
word. The nuns' constitutions, however, in addressing this
shared ministry of the word link it to their vocation of prayer:
"The brethren of the Order, 'commissioned entirely for spreading
abroad the word of God," fulfill their vocation primarily by
preaching. The nuns, while commissioned by God primarily for
prayer, are not for that reason excluded from the ministry of the
word" (LCM 96. I. ) .
Prayer is the true image of God in the world because Christ
prayed on the cross. Prayer is the root of the Dominican nun's
life, then, for it is the cause of the new humanity born from the
side of Christ. Prayer-as-life is the most eloquent counterpoise
to the world, that self-generated image of humanity's disordered
society and history. "In fulfilling (all of the constitutional
prescriptions for prayer) they are truly nuns of the Order of
Preachers" (LCM 74. IV.). The prayer of Christ on the cross is
his revelation of the Father to us at the moment of his own
return. That prayer is the historical donation of Trinitarian
life — Divine Society — because in emptying himself, Jesus gave
over the Spirit of Life. The liturgy of the Eucharist is the
presence and activity of this perichoretic love. It is the only
prayer, and the living image of the community of God. "Hence the
solemn celebration of the liturgy is the heart of our whole life
and the chief and the chief source of its unity" (LCM 75.). The
eucharistic prayer leads the nun to private prayer (LCM 89.) and
to an increase of the Theological virtues (LCM, 90.), the
keystone of Christian maturity.
Prayer is the image of Christ alive and reigning because
through his prayer Jesus unites in love those who believe in him
("And I — once I am lifted up from the earth -- will draw all
men to myself." Jn 12:32). Prayer-as-life is made possible by
withdrawal and silence. But what fosters it is lectio divina .
The nuns' constitutions state, " Lectio divina is ordained to a
real dialogue with God, for 'we speak to God when we pray, we
hear him when we read the divine sayings'," ( St. Ambrose quoted
in LCM 97. I). We see here why lectio divina is essential to the
image of the new humanity: Jesus' return to the Father on the
cross was the Word speaking -- at which moment the mystery of the
Father's fulness was heard forever in human history, a recreative
silence over which their Spirit breathed. In silence, pondering
the divine sayings, the nun hears this Word nourishing her
vocation to prayer-as-life. "The nuns should ponder the
scriptures deeply, so that like our blessed Father Dominic, the
nuns may pass easily from reading to prayer, from prayer to
meditation, and from meditation to contemplation" (LCM 98. I.),
the fulness and end of prayer.
I have argued that the nuns' vocation is to demonstrate the
unity in love that brings the world to believe in the one whom
the Father has sent. Withdrawal from the world is the
precondition of this ministry of salvation. The friars'
constitutions also speak of unity: "We are reminded by the Rule
that the primary reason why we are gathered together is that we
may dwell together in unity..." (LCO 2. I.). This is a communion
"in mind and heart" that extends to all the friars of the Order,
i.e., it is not specific to a particular convent, although it
does not exclude this. Thus the friars live a unity-in-the-world
that signifies that which they preach: "Rooted in the love of
God, the unanimity of our life should provide an example of the
universal reconciliation in Christ, which by word we preach" (LCO
Reconciliation is union with God through conversion of heart
and the forgiveness of sins. Only the Word, the true image of
God and humankind, can do this. The words of the friars call all
people to this unity in the Word. Secured by the example of
their lives, they incarnate the Word himself in the world where
people acquire identity and knowledge through words. Thus the
friars' unity is in mind as well as heart because meaning,
generated through social relations and supported and reproduced
by culture, is personalized in the mind. We are conscious of
ourselves as elements of the world, that is, as persons, by the
various human "words" we have in mind. To the minds of people
from the minds of the friars, the word of reconciliation leading
to unity enters the world of human words. This mission is
supported by the witness of their unanimity of life.
Silence in the constitutions of the friars serves the
ministry of Word and words: "Silence shall be diligently observed
by the brethren, especially in places and at times reserved for
prayer and study..." (LCO 46. I.). In prayer, the image of God,
Jesus Christ the Word, affects mind and heart; in study, the
image of human society enters mind and heart. United in mind and
heart by Dominican fraternity, the friar turns the word of God to
the words of humankind in order to turn people to God the Word
who brings all things into unity. The vocational and ministerial
equality of prayer and study is distinctive to the Dominican
friar. With respect to the purpose of religious silence, the
constitutions do not prioritize them.
In the whole outline of the friars 1 constitutions, however,
there is a ranking. First, the liturgies of the Eucharist and
the hours are dealt with. Next, other forms of prayer are
enjoined. Lectio divina (LCO 66. I.) is not given a separate
heading as it is in the nuns' constitutions where there is an
entire article devoted to it (LCM 97-99.). For the friars,
lectio divina is encouraged as one of several fruitful means to
contemplate, converse with, and foster friendship with God.
Following prayer, there is an extensive section devoted to
study. Significantly this section precedes the one which deals
with the mission of the friars, namely, preaching.
"St. Dominic included study, ordained to the ministry of
salvation, as an essential part of his plan for the Order — this
was no small innovation" (LCO 76.). "Before all else, our study
is aimed principally and ardently at this: that we might be able
to be useful to the souls of our neighbors" (LCO 77.). Compare
this with the constitutions of the nuns: "The methodical study of
sacred truth, according to the capacity of the individual, is a
fruitful preparation for lectio divina and an aid to human
maturity" (LCM 100.). AS with the friar, so with the nun: study
is to serve the apostolate, the ministry of salvation. For the
friar this directs him into the world to his neighbor; for the
nun, this directs her to the scriptures where she ponders the
divine address so as to pass easily from reading to prayer, from
prayer to meditation, and from meditation to contemplation.
Study aids her human maturation into the image of Christ, a free
person in the Person of the Son made capable of living-in-love in
a community of women regenerated and united in Christ.
The friar too lives a religious unity with his brothers but
its power is translated into human words, bringing the divine
word to a reception and comprehension in the world, which, as I
have argued, is a culture of human meanings. The constitutions
therefore mandate that not only scripture and the sacred sciences
be studied, but also the Fathers, who are witnesses of Christian
thought, and St. Thomas, our brother and model (LCO 79, 81-82.).
But the friars are told to study as well the living tradition of
the church, to open dialogue with contemporary scholars, and to
know the most recent science and discoveries (LCO 81.). The
human maturation of the friar, who calls the world to a true
human solidarity by the proclamation of the Word in human words,
is a maturity jji the cultural context which he embraces not by
resisting evil but by loving. The nun demonstrates to culture a
world created and nurtured on the Word, the true image of God and
humankind. The friar acquires the culture of the world, taking
its meanings upon himself there to transform them into the image
of God through a collaboration with his brothers. Dominican nun
and friar share a single apostolate of the Word, and each calls
people away from the illusions of the world and its meanings to
freedom and truth in Christ. The nuns, however, withdraw from
the world to live that true unity in love which the friars enter
the world to proclaim as the vocation of all people. The place
and nature of study in this shared mission are determined by
those respective ends.
In a real sense, Dominic intended the nuns to benefit from
the friars' acquaintance with the world through study and the
proclamation of the Word. I have already suggested that he
joined both the friars and nuns together in a unique ministry of
the Word in which the nuns become a living sign of truth and a
safeguard for the friars as they become immersed in the meanings
of the world. Because their engagement with the world is solely
for its salvation, the friars are especially enabled to bring to
their sisters the refinement of methods and ideas which have been
successful in making the Word heard and believed in the cultures
of human society. This can only aid in lectio divina leading to
contemplation of God.
The fruit of the friar's contemplation which study has aided
shows itself in the preaching of the Truth. The fruit of the
nun's contemplation shows itself in the unity-in-love which leads
the world to believe in Jesus, the one whom the Father has sent.
Study for the friar is turned to the world as it is; study for
the nun is returned to the life which she lives in that unity
which is love, withdrawn from the world with her sisters. Study
for the Dominican nun is turned to that world which awaits all
who are reborn in Christ -- a world they make real for all to see
Down through the Christian centuries, the gospel has been
both lived and proclaimed. Since sacred scripture is the
embodiment of the Word in human words, lectio divina is central
to the nun's vocation. It is important, therefore, to study
those who have studied the human and divine relations evident in
scripture since the alternations of cultures through time affect
the reception of sacred scripture and thus, to a certain degree,
lectio divina . The Fathers are the best and earliest witnesses
of what later was to appear as the unique Dominican vocation of
studious preparation in the meanings of the human world in order
to proclaim the Word. Thus the Fathers are studied by both the
nuns and the friars -- by the friars because of the various
methods employed in differing human contexts to make a hearing
for the Word, and by the nuns because of the Fathers' manifold
insights about the Word himself. The theology of St. Thomas is
at root an explication of the scriptures and Catholic tradition
so purely wrought that for all practical purposes it is
perennial. For the friar he is a model of how to engage the
meanings of the human world in the service of the gospel; for the
nuns, he is an unsurpassed guide for understanding the height and
depth of sacred scripture, and thus for lectio divina leading to
contemplation of God.
As Dominicans, nuns and friars share a common and
collaborative ministry of the Word for the salvation of
humankind. Both engage the illusions of the human world in the
exercise of that ministry. However, they engage the world in
different ways. The nuns withdraw from it in order to image the
society of the Trinity, absent the determining influences of
human culture. The friars bring themselves to ministerial
maturity within human culture in order to understand and
transform its world of meanings into the image of God. Study
figures into both evangelical missions but only as determined by
the needs of their respective approaches. Thus the nun studies
to return her to the contemplation of the Word so as to image the
unity and love of God in the world. The friar studies so as to
turn the world to the Word of God, its true image and only
Kasper, Walter. The God of Jesus Christ . Trans. Matthew
J. O'Connell. New York: Crossroad, 1987.
Lowenthal, Leo. Literature, Popular Culture, and Society . Palo
Alto, Calf.: Pacific Books, 1961.
Marcuse, Herbert. "The Affirmative Character of Culture."
Negations . Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. London: Free Association
A PARABLE OF THE WORD
(A modest response within the context of Fr. Bill Barron's profound
presentation: PRAYER; STUDY; WITHDRAWAL as Interior Attitude and Disciplined
Focus . McLean Assembly, September, 1992.)
The kingdom of heaven is like this. There was a child born into this world,
and, in the making, the Lord engraved words upon her heart. One of these
graven words was: "We have here no lasting city". In due time as she viewed
the world about her, another graven word came forth: "God saw all that he had
made and, indeed it was very good". There were however, storms and dangers
about this good world, but the Lord, her God, said to her: "Peace. I myself,
Faithful and True, will shelter you with my presence." And so it happened.
The Lord, her God, led her to live in a quiet flowering desert to speak to her
heart, to teach her to love him with her whole being, to be his betrothed. And
she lived there with her Lord, at one with her brothers and sisters, in a holy
dwelling that looked like an eight-pointed star engulfed in a blazing ball of
fire, and its name rested above it: MY GOD MY MERCY. Some who dwelt there
remained to tend the fire, and others were sent forth into the world with the
Book of the Gospel and a flaming torch.
She remained within the holy dwelling and entered the cell of self-knowledge,
but she was slow to learn and is so to this day, though closer to burial than
to birth. Gradually another graven word came forth: "You are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind and naked". Day by day she sat with this word and
pondered it in the dark bright light of God's love. The awareness of her
lowliness and poverty increased, and she bore within her heart a flame and
within the flame, a tear as heavy as lead. She washed the feet of her Lord
with this tear, but it remained, heavy as lead. Suddenly the Lord transported
her to a hill and invited her to live there. And she lived there, at one with
her brothers and sisters, in a holy dwelling that looked like an eight -pointed
star engulfed in a blazing ball of fire, and its name rested above it: MY GOD
MY MERCY. Some who dwelt there remained to tend the fire, and others were sent
forth into the world with the Book of the Gospel and a flaming torch.
From this hill the Lord showed her a city teeming with wretchedness: poverty,
ignorance, drugs, prostitution, violence, pain and oppression. .. .hopelessness.
Her heart nearly burst with sorrow for she knew well by now what it is to bear
such fearful darkness. So each day she stands by an open window calling to all
who pass by: "Deeply do we share with you your weakness, your woundedness.
Come brothers and sisters, images of God, share his strength and healing with
us!" Then a graven word is heard: "THIS IS MY BODY".
"On the wall of my cell is a wood -burned crucifix that I received on the day of
my profession* The engraving is fading away with time....
May the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
engrave it in me
so that I may become
' inexpressible groanings ' (Rm.8:27)
for my human brothers and sisters." 1
lr The words of one of the Nuns of the Dominican Monastery, Berthierville,
Canada, in their videotape Au Coeur du Monde .
Sr. Lee, O.P., Bronx
DOMINICAN VISION FOR THE FUTURE:
Sr. Jean Mane, O.P.
Dominic, as he formed his followers into a new Order, shared
his vision also with the group of women who had been gathered
together at Prouille. Our monastic vocation is rooted in our
Dominican charism which gives it its unique character and spirit.
Where do we find those elements that define our charism? The
basic spirit of the Order is found in the 'Fundamental
Constitution of the Order.'' In the "Fundamental Constitution of
the Nuns'' and LCM we have that charism made specific to the
FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTION OF THE ORDER
The first three sections state the very essence of the
Dominican charism: a following of Christ through sharing in the
universal mission of the Church, dedication to evangelization, an
intense relationship to the Word of God, Gospel living, and the
explicit seeking of salvation for all men and women. The
communion of members and our universal mission are essential to
our Dominican identity and flow from the ecclesial character of
our charism and its goal, the salvation of all. The remaining
sections of the document complete the picture of Dominican life
by outlining the various elements that define it.
Section IV speaks of living the common life, the evangelical
counsels, common celebration of the Liturgy, study and regular
observance, which not only give glory to God but "but serve
directly the salvation of mankind..'" Our governmental structure
is also essential to the character of Dominican life. These
elements indeed dedicate us to the Word of God and prepare for
the preaching to which we are committed. These essential
structures of our life directly contribute to our mission and
Then the Constitution states a fundamental principle of
Dominican living: "These elements are closely interconnected and
carefully balanced, mutually enriching one another, so that in
their synthesis the proper life of the Order is established"
(IV). It is in this synthesis of elements, carefully balanced,
closely interconnected and mutually enriching that we have the
great wisdom of Dominic's charism.
Sections VI and VII speak of the Order's structure which
arises from its mission and the communion of the members. Our
mission to preach the Word to all nations gives the Order a
universal character. From our mission flows our obedience and
the need for personal responsibility and the use of the gifts of
the members. Section VI speaks of this responsibility and
affirmation of personal gifts in relationship to the preaching,
but I believe these characteristics belong to Dominican life
wherever it is lived and form part of its nature. Dominican
life, with its great respect for the goodness of human nature,
calls for initiative and responsibility from the individual as we
seek to realize in our common life the full purpose of our
calling. Section VII speaks of Dominican government as also
flowing from our communion and universality. Our governmental
structure is one of "organic and balanced participation" of all
the members "for pursuing the special end of the Order. " Our
Fundamental Constitution in Section V echoes this by saying:
"The nuns seek God by ... pursuing communion through their manner
of government . "
RENEWAL, REVISION AND CONVERSION
The last paragraph of Section VII and Section VIII speak of
the important place of renewal within the Order. Our government
is "particularly suited for the Order's development and frequent
renewal" (VII). Renewal is necessary for the sake of Christian
conversion, preaching, and an intimate relationship to the Word
of God as it is manifest in each generation and epoch of history.
The power of revision and the ability to enact laws which allow
the Order to remain faithful to its mission is a distinct
characteristic of Dominican government. Every element of the
Dominican structure points towards and enables us to fulfill the
goal given us by Dominic. As dispensation in our tradition is
for the sake of fulfilling our common vocation, so too, this
power of revision is for the sake of living our life with greater
fidelity to the Gospel.
ESSENTIAL DOMINICAN CHARACTERISTICS AND THE NUNS
The Nuns too embrace all the elements of Dominican life as a
following of Christ and a way of living the Gospel. We share in
Dominic's vision and in the Order's fundamental spirit and
mission. Those particular and essential characteristics that
mold our Dominican existence are total dedication to the Word of
God, an ecclesial and apostolic vocation, indeed an intimate
sharing in the salvific mission of Christ. Our vocation as nuns
of the Order forms the specific way in which we appropriate all
the essential characteristics of the Dominican charism. As
Dominicans we have been given totally to the proclamation of the
Word of God through prayer, penance and the witness of our lives
and are dedicated in a new way to the universal church, sharing
fully in the evangelical and salvific vocation of the Order.' In
section II of the Fundamental Constitution our way of life is
identified with the friars and is characterized as a life of
perfection "which is effective in caring for and obtaining the
salvation of all people." In the chapter on lectio and study our
legislation again makes clear our special relationship to the
preaching and the Word of God and the salvific mission of Christ.
Finally we add the elements of conversion and renewal,
personal responsibility, mutual trust and the use of personal
gifts for the good of all and the fulfillment of our mission.
Monastic life is characterized by stability, yet we too need a
system of renewal that is faithful to the Order's tradition and
enables us to introduce those changes necessary for remaining
faithful to our charism as it exists in each new age. Renewal
and conversion presuppose those wonderful characteristics that
Dominic possessed and imparted to all his followers: courage,
hope and trust in one another. Renewal and conversion are
fundamental to Dominic's vision and therefore an essential part
of our own identity as Dominicans. I think this involves not
only an ability to discern outward stimuli and incorporate those
elements in the present culture that are enduring, but also that
inner dynamism which calls us to exercise good government and
empower the gifts that our sisters possess. In regard to renewal
and governmental responsibility, one area we need to look at is
calling new and younger members into roles of leadership. The
council should be representative of the whole community, from
all the varied sectors of community, young and old. Just as it
is not good to reelect superiors over and over, so I think we
also need to have a variety of people serving as council members.
CURRENT ISSUES AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
What are some of the current issues that have effected
changes in our way of life and continue to shape us toward the
future? The impetus comes both from without and from within our
monastic life. From without the most obvious are the changes
implemented by Vatican II, the rapidly changing condition of
society, international communication and also the changing
position of women in the world. All these have profoundly
affected religious living. From within we have the changes in
our Constitutions, the need for vocations and the need to
understand and communicate with the women who will be entering,
smaller and aging communities, and the closing of houses. These
circumstances have sparked a growing concern for the quality of
Dominican monastic life throughout the world.
The changing position of women in society has had a definite
effect on our monastic life, especially in the light of new
governmental responsibilities. When Dominic founded our first
communities self-government was not a possibility for women. Now
this has changed radically. The movement toward more autonomy
for women's communities in governing themselves and the more
equal status of women in society as a whole will bring about a
greater delegation of responsibilities to our monasteries. This
movement has already affected Canon Law which in turn affects all
legislation for communities of women. We now live in a society
where women are expected to undertake the responsible direction
of thei r 1 i ves .
The changes in LCM, especially with regard to government,
have been an important reality shaping our future. The
governmental legislation of LCM extends not only to good
government within our monasteries but also calls for universal
legislative structures. The growing awareness of the universal
dimension of our life is closely related to this change in LCM.
The greater possibility for self-government given to the
nuns by their Constitutions makes many changes necessary for
future growth and in order to live out LCM fully. We have the
legislative power to become more responsible for our life but
without the necessary structure to make such responsi- bility an
effective reality. Thus we have seen the establishment of a
commission of nuns and an outreach toward one another in order to
improve communication and foster mutual awareness and
understanding of our vocation internationally. This movement
toward mutual help and unity has been fostered nationally through
federations and conferences.
The 1971 revision of our Constitutions was our first radical
revision of legislation since that done by Humbert. 2 This
revision for the first time gave us a more direct and responsible
role in promulgating our own legislation.
The 1971 Constitutions restored some very basic Dominican
elements and in particular the unique character of Dominican
government with its balance of governmental elements. The few
changes in the 1981 Constitutions reinforced this. In these two
revisions, that of 1971 and 1981, we have reclaimed our close
interconnectedness to the Order's legislative spirit, no longer
solely through our relationship to the brothers but directly, as
our own legislation calls us to take up the task of self-
government, locally and internationally, following our wonderful
This power is something we are still beginning to take up
and develop. Clear, precise and objective legislation is a
hallmark of the Dominican tradition and now we, the nuns, need to
develop a greater ability to enact such legislation without over-
dependence on outside help. For this, education and study are
important so that we may take responsibility for ourselves
maturely and competently. Our new governmental structures and
their use will lead us to take a greater responsibility for the
direction of our lives, become more proficient in enacting our
own legislation and capable of establishing a system of
accountability in which we will serve directly, i.e., a system of
visitations and accountability that involves the nuns themselves
and not only the friars. I know there have been abuses in the
past that have instilled distrust and caution, but there have
also been many mistakes made under the present system. These
stem not only from misdirection by outside sources but also from
our dependency and inability to be responsible for the direction
of our 1 i ves .
We are dealing with three levels of governmental structure:
1) the Directories which give the particular spirit and character
of the individual monastery chapter: 2) LCM, an international
level of legislation which entails more responsibility for us in
changing our Constitutions when necessary; and 3) our juridical
bond to the Order and the responsibility and accountability that
involves. It seems to me we must be clear about each of these
levels. Today we need to look at our governmental structure as
it affects our common identity as Dominicans united constitu-
tionally, our responsibilities within the local monastery chapter
and our accountability to the Order. These three levels are
supporting entities of Dominican government, mutually enriching
and traditional to the government of the Order. The governmental
legislation given in LCM follows the general contours of that
type of government which has been part of the Order from the very
beginning. It is indeed Dominic's unique and wonderful heritage
There are two particular aspects of Dominican government
that I feel we need to look at because of present developments.
They are accountability and representation.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND REPRESENTATION
First let us look at the concept of accountability. A
system of accountability has been a part of Dominican government
since its inception. The different components of our government
(chapter, superior and council) provide a set of checks and
balances on every level of Dominican government, both locally and
internationally. I believe we need to look at this aspect of
accountability more closely and also move toward those structures
which will provide a system of accountability for Dominican
monastic life on a broader level.
The idea of accountability includes not only responsibility
within the dimensions of our life and governmental structures as
nuns but also our accountability to the Order. This is expressed
through our profession of obedience to the Master of the Order.
The Fundamental Constitution of the Order (VI) states that
obedience to the Master is a principle of unity within the Order.
There is a very real sense in which, as part of the Order, we can
and need to be called to accountability for our faithfulness to
the Dominican charism. This is and can continue to be one of the
avenues of checks and balances for which Dominican government is
noted and our link to the Order in this way offsets an unhealthy
isolationism. But at the same time it is also necessary to take
a more active and enlightened role in this universal dimension of
our life. The new commission of nuns is beginning this important
task. The two facets that seem important to retain and develop
are our continued link to the Order with its accountability and a
new enlightened and responsible participation by the nuns
themselves in this area of decision-making. As we move forward
into a future where we will be more directly responsible for our
life I think it necessary to remain closely united to the Order
and to our direct relationship to it.
Secondly we have the issue of representation. On the
national and international level the question of representation
is very important. The structure of monastic communities, as a
grouping of autonomous monasteries which in the past have had
very little communication with one another, takes on a new
character in the light of our present Constitutions. A system or
representation has always been an essential part of Dominican
government. For us to work with our present legislation on a
national and international level a system of representation is
necessary. Thus we can see again the importance of the
international commission and precisely this movement toward
representation. There is no other way for us to deal effectively
as a group given the governmental legislation of LCM. Good
communication among us is thus so important at this epoch of our
existence. To truly foster our vocation and role in the Order it
seems we must develop our sense of common identity as an
international entity rooted in a common Dominican monastic
tradition. This common focus on our purpose and goal seems
especially important in the light of the many urgent needs facing
our monasteries throughout the world-- lack of vocations,
dwindling numbers, foundations, lack of personnel — and in order
to foster healthy Dominican monastic presence throughout the
world. The purpose of all of this is to strengthen our unity
within the total reality of our Dominican cloistered life.
SUMMARY: DOMINICAN VISION
A vision for the future would contain all the basic elements
outlined in this paper. It is a future commitment that we have
already begun, are presently caught up in, and continue to move
toward. This is a time for special reflection on our present
experience so that we may move surely and with enlightened
foresight into the future.
The text of LCM 181 has done much to start this process
which is shaping us anew and calling us to new maturity and a
greater unity and cohesiveness as a group: a future which unites
us as an international group, with the need to work together and
grow together in order to strengthen our common Dominican
heritage. To realize such a vision communication on a national
and international level is necessary. This task we are facing is
one that calls for education, dialogue, communication. It will
not be accomplished overnight but I firmly believe we are
undertaking these new responsibilities in the power of the Spirit
of God and therefore will grasp more deeply that to which we have
been called in Christ Jesus. Jesus says all will know we are his
disciples when we have attained the same unity that he and the
Father share (Jn 17:23). So to move toward possessing a greater
unity among all Dominican nuns is surely to preach the Lord Jesus
with greater alacrity and to qraso our Dominican vocation more
deepl y .
1. LCM, 2. II. 3. II, 74. IV. 75.
2. There were three revisions of our legislation before that of
1971: Humbert of Romans. 1259: A.V. Jandel. 1868 and Martin
Gil let, 1931. All three were In response to changes in church
legislation and ordinances of General Chapters. The purpose of
Humbert's revision was to bring a greater legislative unity to the
various customs and regulations practiced in the different houses.
Jandel 's revision remained essentially that of Humbert. His
revision was in response to legislation from Trent. What was
peculiar to Jandel 's edition was the commentary by Ambroise Potton,
O.P., which was printed along with the constitutional texts. The
Commentary though not legislatively binding took on the aura of law
for the nuns which eventually caused confusion and
misunderstanding. When Gil let revised the constitution in 1931,
the elimination of Potton ' s commentary from the Book of the
Constitutions caused problems in getting some of the monasteries
to accept the new legislation. Again the Gil let revision remained
essentially that of Humbert with those changes necessary to update
it according to the New Code of his time.
WORK AND THE INROADS OF ACTIVISM
Sister Mary Amata, O.P.
Entering the 21st century of Christian existence, and
approaching the 8th centenary of Dominican Life, it is appropriate
to consider the place of work in our lives, and particularly the
inroads that activism threatens to make. We see the timeliness of
these considerations in the very themes of the 1988 and 1992
General Assemblies: FREE FOR GOD ALONE and RECLAIMING THE
DOMINICAN VISION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.
FRAMING THE QUESTION
Questions about work, and its place in the life of the nun
have many interesting precedents in the developing history of
cenobitic life. Among the first ones that come to mind, there is
the cook in the Pachomian community, who used his "spare" kitchen
time to make rush mats. To our way of thinking, this was a praise-
worthy effort to help support the community. So we are quite
surprised to find that Pachomius collected the five hundred mats
and burned them, after rebuking the brother for neglecting his duty
to the community. (1)
What about St. Teresa of Avila catching herself dashing off
to check on this or that need, and then having to make herself sit
back down to finish her prayer? Or the procuratrix, at San Jose,
worrying that the community's meager supply of cooking oil will
burn and be lost if Teresa has an ecstasy while cooking? (2)
Is Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection a possible example for
us to emulate? He seems to have been remarkable even in his own
community for being able to maintain a proper perspective on work
in his life. (3)
Clearly, this is an age-old problem, if we can use such a
term. Even in America almost two hundred years ago, Saint
Elizabeth Ann Seton had to warn her first Sisters to be careful
that they did not let themselves get caught in the "rat race." She
reminds them about working:
Do it in the manner God wills it, not sewing an old thing
as if it were new, or a new thing as if it were old; not
fretting because the oven is too hot, or in a fuss
because it is too cold. You understand — not flying and
driving because your are hurried, not creeping like a
snail because no one pushes you. (4)
When we think of our modern western society in these last
years of the 20th century, the image and images that come to mind
are so busy, so action-packed and achievement-oriented, it is
little wonder that the contemplative life is considered to be
counter -cultural .
How many people find themselves trying to do two, three, or
even four things at once, let alone "moonlighting" on several jobs?
There are isometric exercises that you can do while you listen to
a tape while you are riding the bus to work. There are instant
breakfast drinks to be swallowed in a gulp as you dash to the gym
to get in a quick workout before the special education session on
how to effectively manage your time, so that you can get in more
leisure activities and quality family time in the extra hour of
light that you get from daylight savings time. There are incentive
rewards for being more productive at work, so that they can
encourage you to retire early, and hire a lower salaried worker to
take your place in the job force.
In our wonderful, action oriented, "instant" society that is
so geared up for production, why are so many people constantly
searching for peace and fulfillment? Indeed, why did any one of
us come to this life of contemplation?
Are we so very different when we look closely at the reality
of our own lives? How many times do we find ourselves, as
individuals and as communities, trying to squeeze our schedule just
a little more closely together to get more time for work? How
often do we have to juggle community recreation and leisure time,
and even the times for prayer and study, against the "demands" of
work? What about begrudging time spent in community meetings
and/or practicing for the liturgy, as depriving us of "work time"?
Isn't all this "robbing Peter to pay Paul?"
I think that we can find a way to overcome the tendency to
activism in a very familiar line — Psalm 46:10 — Be still and
know that I am God. The text has two parts for us to analyze at
Be still. The very first word "be," is the verb "to be, to
exist." And then we have an adverb telling us how to exist, "in
quietness." But this is not a stillness that is dead, it is more
the stillness of the gentle lapping waves at the lake shore; or the
quiet, gentle stillness of a sleeping baby; or again, the contented
stillness of sitting and rocking on the front porch in the quiet
of the evening.
Know that I Am God. Here too, there are several thoughts all
interrelated. First of all, "know" is to be read and heard in the
deep Semitic sense of experiencing. It is something so much richer
than the mere intellectual knowing we are accustomed to using; this
is the deep experience of knowing that is conveyed in the phrase
"and he knew his wife." Incredible as it seems, this is how we
are to KNOW GOD!
Next there is the Being we are to know — GOD. We see an
added emphasis, a repetition, in the words, "I Am God," when we
remember that "I Am" is the proper name for God, the name that
Moses learned in the encounter with the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
It is somewhat like Catherine of Siena hearing God say: "You are
she who is not, and I Am He Who IS."
We hear God saying to us: "I Am God. I, not you, am The
Creator. I am not a phantasm of your imagination, doing things as
you think they are to be done. Do you think that I am like you?
I am God, not man. "
In the 1st letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that
we are to work in the world, but not be immersed in the world that
we are working in. As he says, we have not adopted the spirit of
the world. (5)
This is the example that Jesus the Carpenter's Son, and all
of the Holy Family, set before us. Pope Paul VI used this theme
in his teaching:
In Nazareth, the home of a craftsman's son, we learn
about work and the discipline it entails. I would
especially like to recognize its value — demanding yet
redeeming — and to give it proper respect. I would
remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the
other hand it is not an end in itself. Its value and
free character, however, derive not only from its place
in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the
purpose it serves. (6)
Yet, there are also very real practical questions that we must
face in evaluating the place of work in our lives. If we do not
maintain the balance that our lives require, we run the risk of
being either all work, or no work. So, we must consider the rhythm
of our lives from several aspects.
First, there is the question of how much "productive labor"
or "remunerative work" is necessary from a financial point of view.
This question will thus include considerations of our style of
living, and even how we pursue studies, and our household work,
caring for the sick, etc.
Second, there is the primacy that the liturgical rhythm of the
Church year gives to times and seasons in our routine life. How
do we fit our work into the daily schedule of the Liturgy of the
Hours? How do we plan our work to allow for the special holy times
like Advent and Christmas; Lent, Holy Week and Easter; the annual
retreat; etc.? (7)
Next, how do we regard our individual "charges" vis a vis the
community projects and the common good?
A final question concerns our very future as Dominican Nuns.
We will have to give serious consideration to the ramifications of
our understanding of work in order to be able to pass this life on
to the Sisters in formation. Do we want them to see our life as
a "life of the workaholic nuns"?
I wonder if these thoughts about WORK AND THE INROADS OF
ACTIVISM in our lives, can be summarized within the framework of
the original temptation in the Garden of Eden. The subtle lie of
the devil was that they would not die if they did eat the forbidden
fruit. And, the primary temptation for Adam and Eve was that they
would be like God, knowing good from evil.
How much different is this from our situation today? There
is the subtle lie that we will not die in the process of gaining
our goal. And are we not tempted to be like God? Only in this
case, it is to be like God who is pure Act, rather than to remain
the creature of God, both potency and act.
St. Dominic and the first nuns gave work a definite place in
the horarium. And LCM does not neglect this valuable form of
asceticism. Yes, work is essential, but it is always a part of,
in fact only one of, the means that we use to reach our end —
union with God and the salvation of souls. (8) This is the
perspective that must always be remembered as we live our lives.
Maintaining the true values of our life will enable us to
keep this essential perspective on the very priorities that drew
us to Dominican contemplative life. These ends supply us with
guiding principles for balancing the traditional customs and
practices of religious life with the modern needs of living in the
St. Dominic had the wisdom to do this in the 13th century.
May we have a share in that wisdom in our own days.
(1) Pachomi an Koinonia. Volume II. Pachomian Chronicles an d Rules,
Translated with introduction by Armand Veilleux, (Cistercian
Publications, Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1981), pp. 36-38.
(2) The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila. Translated by
Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, (ICS Publications,
Washington DC. )
(3) See Henri Nouwen's thoughts in his forward to: The Practice
of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection,
newly translated, with an Introduction by John J. Delaney, forward
by Henri J. M. Nouwen, (Image books, a division of Doubleday and
Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1977), pp. 9-12
(4) Liturgy of the Hours, Volume 1, (Catholic Book Publishing
Company, New York, 1975), p. 1690.
(5) cf. 1 Corinthians 7:30, 31; 2:12.
(6) Liturgy of the Hours. Volume 1, (Catholic Book Publishing
Company, New York, 1975), p. 428.
(7) In farming communities, the school year used to be, and
sometimes still is, structured around the planting and harvesting
(8) LCM 35. II.
THE WORKAHOLIC SYNDROME AND ORIGINAL SIN
Sister Maria Agnes, OP
The monastic contemplative life is the calm and serenity
of unceasing activity, carried on as a means to a higher
life of the spirit. Hildegard of Bingen described this higher
life in musical language: "Like billowing clouds, like the in-
cessant gurgle of the brook, the longing of the soul can never
be stilled. It is this longing with which holy persons seek
their work from God." (1)
In all walks of life, we meet dedicated people who
respond to the demands of their vocation by working hard.
They have been trained to a selfless commitment through
fervent service after the example of Christ who washed his
disciples' feet. The authenticity of a self-transcending life
is made visible in deeply caring service and through different
types of work. LCM 105:1 points out that work, in our state
of life, provides us with experience, and by its demands and
difficulties, challenges us to transcend its successes and
reverses. Work also reveals human potential, stimulates the
life-force within each person, and perfects her unique
For centuries, men and women have adjusted themselves to
the changing attitudes and conditions in the world of work.
They are involved in a rapidly changing process of trans-
formation of the whole concept of work, service and freedom.
The empirical sciences have expanded the field of vision
concerning the changing nature of work and the development of
human skills in modern technology. This article focuses on
contemporary work as an experience, graced and human, in an
industrialized culture. St. Thomas makes a distinction
between opus , or the work of humans as co-creators and
artists, and onus , which is work as a burden and a curse. (2)
This Thomistic distinction is highly relevant to modern
society and technology and to our present topic which is a
countercultural critique of the pragmatic, omnipotent American
work ethic. Omnipotent! How easily work can become an
alternative to the transcendent God! With how many
subtleties, inflections and chromaticisms does human work
project the illusions and falsity of the world, ("world" in
the Johannine sense) when it is not redeemed and transfigured
in Christ! Together, let us look into this issue with a view
to integrating current knowledge and traditional values, while
opening up new paths to future inquiry.
THE WORKAHOLIC 'S KEY SIGNATURE; "I AM WHAT I DO "
There are people whose desire to work long and hard is
an ingrained habit and whose goals and work patterns almost
always exceed the demands of the job they do and the
expectations of the people with whom, through whom, and for
whom they work. Not all hard working people, however, are
workaholics. The time and energy spent at work and the weight
of work are not a reliable index to workaholism. Long working
hours are not the sine qua non of the workaholic syndrome. It
is the attitude towards work, the hefty and compulsive
appetite for work, which are the key to the whole issue of
work addictologia . When a person uses work to prevent herself
from being in touch with her inner life - bodily, psycho-
logically, and spiritually - and when she needs more work in
progression, we say she is addicted to work. (3)
The workaholic has difficulty in accepting herself for
who she is. Self-worth is rooted in what she does. Job,
projects and titles of office are the primary external means
to her self-identity. Try to ask the "un-self ed" person who
she is and she would tell you what she is doing, or better
still, she will give you a list of her accomplishments. The
workaholic's low self-esteem stems from the fear that there
might be nobody within her worth knowing and loving. The
workaholic has abandoned her inner core. In some cases,
there is a complex interplay between human motivations and
compulsive needs on the one hand, and religious experience and
spiritual motivations on the other. (4)
A compulsive drivenness dominates the daily life of the
work addict. Compulsion goes beyond the area of work and
chemical addiction. Some back-up addictions to the workaholic
syndrome are relationships, collecting things, and reading
books without gentleness and moderation. Work addiction also
goes hand in hand with functional relationships. The
workaholic cannot say "No" to unreasonable demands for fear of
disapproval. She seeks love and affirmation through being
useful, rushing and caring. Work is her self-definition and
emotional stance towards people. Non-activity such as rest
and meditation must justify themselves as necessary means for
The first and final defense of the addictive process is
denial. Other people support the denial by praising the
workaholic as good, generous, self-effacing and heroic. To be
super-good and super-efficient are contingent to being
lovable. That is why workaholism is more difficult to grapple
with than alcoholism because it can become a chronic
affliction masquerading as a virtue in the cultural lore and
ethic of religious people. (5)
FUGUE: TYPES OF WORKAHOLICS
The GENERIC WORKAHOLIC fits the stereotype to a T. In
order to achieve perfect control, she orchestrates her work
schedule into a predictable time frame. Time management is
the key to success. Compulsion and perfectionism go hand in
hand to create a pressure cooker atmosphere when and where she
works. Try to visualize the tremendous outpour of energy when
the generic workaholic is being chased by deadlines, real or
imaginary. She seems to move faster than the rest of the
world. The metronomic tempo is presto agitato . A sense of
emptiness keeps her working all the time. She works beyond
work and feels useless when there is not much to do. (6)
The generic workaholic is a one-dimensional person-
ality. Leisure goes against her grain. At recreation, she is
either busy at something or thinking and talking about work
and more work. In matters of relationships, it is easier for
her to sustain intimacy with work than with people. Her
interactions with others are oriented towards functions and
projects. When working with others, she de-motivates people
by denying them the opportunity to practice initiative. Time,
space and creativity are controlled by the generic worka-
holic. She is critical of others' works and she fears to
relinquish her job.
The INTEGRATED WORKAHOLIC is a well-rounded personality
type who enjoys work as well as other interests. She can be
astonishingly happy and productive, finding work enjoyable and
richly rewarding. The joy and stress of overwork inebriates
her. A tight schedule that calls for split-second timing
would hardly scare an integrated worker out of her wits. By
working on the right things at the right time, she diversifies
her day and adds a spice of adventure to every task. She
knows how to psyche herself up by making the most of her time
with the least stress. She also has the talent to simplify
the methods of doing a job. People look up to her as capable
An example of this type is the closet worker. (7) Like
the closet eater who eats moderately at mealtimes and snacks
on the sly, the closet worker accomplishes a slew of hidden
projects. In fact, she has a huge supply of work inside her
"mental closet." When you work with an integrated workaholic,
the tempo is molto allegro e con brio. Her social contacts
are invariably work-oriented. Ongoing projects serve to
maintain relationships. Try to ask an integrated worker how
she gets along with people and she will tell you how well she
works with and through others. This type of worker, however,
has great potential for true friendships that deepen and ripen
A third type is the INTENSE WORKAHOLIC who loses her
perspective and acquires a tunnel vision while absorbed in
work. She focuses only on one thing: the job or list of jobs
to be done. Rigidity, rather than spontaneity, characterizes
the intense worker's approach to both work and play. She
pursues leisure and recreation with the same intensity and
gumption as she pursues work. Games are another form of
work. A hobby is to be done with the same intensity and
preoccupation as one pursues work and study. She works hard
to have fun and her self-conscious efforts are carefully
planned and structured.
We can take a look at the binge worker as an example. (8)
Like the binge drinker, the binge worker will be moderate for
a period of time. Then, suddenly, she will plunge into a
breakneck schedule of activities. During this phase, she
forgets herself and becomes absorbed by the work. The only
difference between the binge worker and the binge drinker is
that the substance of addiction is work, not alcohol. Work
serves as a tension release valve to numb the feelings, quiet
down questions, anxiety, doubts and unresolved emotional
hurts. Binging is a psychological stance and common
behavioral pattern for an intense workaholic. When she is in
a binging mood, her pace accelerates into a molto allegro e
con fuoco . This behavior, however, should not be confused
with having to put on extra time and effort to finish a
The intense workaholic is not well suited for teamwork
or group projects because she is more likely to compete than
to collaborate with others. Personal objectives and
individual style come before the common goal. Her unswerving
standard of excellence pushes her to think of and work out
every detail of the job. Like the generic workaholic, she
controls and de-motivates those who work with or under her.
The DIFFUSE WORKAHOLIC generates energy by "putting her
fingers in lots of pies." Work, for her, is not just a job.
It is also a source of child-like enjoyment. Ah! How many
hours she spends busying herself with unnecessary tasks 1 With
an allegro vivace tempo, she starts projects and pursues
interests in many fields and drops them easily. Her short
span of attention keeps her switching gears from time to
time. She is not able to decide what is really necessary at a
given time. Prioritizing is an alien thing to the diffuse
worker. Oftentimes, her behavior is absurd or simply
A grasping stance towards things is an effect of this
syndrome. The diffuse worker obsessively collects and hoards
things. In fact, she gets out of sync when she loses or
misplaces' an item in her collection. She thrives well in a
cluttered room and will not clear it for fear she would have
to face her inner self. A clutter takes her out of herself
and frees her from an encounter with who she really is. This
compulsive collecting of things can be transferred to ideas,
relationships and power-generating jobs.
The WORK ANOREXIC (9) suffers from a poor self-image.
Immobility and the compulsive avoidance of steady,
conscientious work is her defense mechanism against fear of
failure. The fear of making mistakes, of being ridiculed,
criticized or rejected inevitably leads to procrastination.
There is no finishing line for the anorexic workaholic,
because she underestimates how long a project will take and
then rushes to complete it. She dismisses hours and days into
eternity with a nonchalant attitude. This behavior calls for
a cool, aloof panache to conceal anxiety and uncertainty.
Time hangs heavily on the hands of the anorexic worker. Her
constant pace is adagio . What does she do when caught with
the end of the year's log-jam of "must do"? Well, she either
enters the new year without getting anything done or she
manages to rustle up a few things. When the peak moment comes
for an imperative act, she can turn into a rushaholic. Like
the driver who gets caught in the final rush hour, the
anorexic steps on the accelerator, gathers momentum, and, with
a quick screech, roars through the open gate just a few
seconds before it closes. A habitual anorexic pattern
eclipses her sense of true self-worth. A person who either
focuses on self by avoiding or turning away from self through
compulsive overwork has a poor self-image, and this is the
essence of pride. Workaholics can move through all five types
easily. There is no strict categorization of types.
THE DEVELOPMENTAL ASPECT OF WORKAHOLISM
The workaholic syndrome is the confluence of childhood
upbringing, job and career experience in the world and early
religious formation. The research and study of psychologists
confirm the fact that workaholism is an extrapolation of
childhood development brought about by doting, ambitious
parents and exacting mentors. (10) Most children feel that
they should meet the lofty goals set before them by their
elders. Would it not be terrifying to fall short of family
and school standards? This attitude can be carried over to
the religious life and perpetuated by a novice mistress who
expects much from herself as formator by setting up a very
high standard of excellence in training candidates. Then
follows the ever-increasing demands and expectations of the
community. The more a person accomplishes and produces, the
more she is appreciated, until she begins to see love and
acceptance as contingent on peak performance of jobs. Through
utility and productivity, the person's sense of value and love-
worthiness becomes contingent on the affirmation of others.
Recognition and acceptance are earned by being useful ,
competent, rushing and caring.
In some religious communities, the workaholic syndrome
has become a considerable cachet. The religious stamp of
workaholism is the most dignified and respectable version of
addiction because it is productive. Many people began the
addictive process as children. They have had 30, 40 or even
60 years of developmental conditioning in this behavioral
pattern. The good person is someone who works non-stop
without counting the cost. Prayer oftentimes suffers. The
liturgy and private prayer receive the dregs of leftover
energy. "I have fallen into the great indignity I have
written against," wrote the young Thomas Merton, " I am a
contemplative who is ready to collapse from overwork. This, I
think, is a sin and the punishment of sin, but now, I have got
to turn it to good use, and be a saint by it, somehow. "( 1 1 )
When the community is the workaholic, several options
emerge. Some members leave, but that is a risk, for they
might find themselves in the same situation. Those who stay
survive the community's workaholism by pursuing work with the
adrenal courage of soldiers.
COUNTERPOINT; LEISURE, REST AND RECREATION
"Workaholics commit slow suicide by refusing to allow
the child within them to play," says Dr. Lawrence Susser, a
psychologist who also trained as a pediatrician. ( 12 ) Work
and play are like contrapuntal melodies in one rhythmic
movement. Where work invests energy that is self-fulfilling
by reason of its product, play involves human effort that is
immediately enjoyable in itself. A person will be more
valuable to the community with the proper amount of leisure,
rest and recreation. The inability to relax comes, not from
the work itself, but from the wrong attitude towards work.
Nothing purifies, focuses and ennobles work more than periods
of non-activity. These periods dismantle one's defenses and
internal forms of aggression.
Here are questions we might want to ask ourselves:
1. Do we find it difficult to sit, relax and enjoy
being ourselves without having to follow a specific agenda?
2. Are our retreats, holydays and weekends planned in
advance to accomplish some tasks or to catch up with a backlog
of pending projects?
3. Do we feel uncomfortable at recreation unless our
hands are busy at something all the time?
4. Are we experiencing feelings that we want to avoid,
so that busyness makes those feelings beyond our reach?
5. Is recreation adulterated by shop talk and work
6. Do we use work projects and hobbies as buffers
because we have difficulty communicating and relating with
others on a person-to-person basis?
7. Do we keep processing work in our minds during
prayer, at recreation, and at bedtime?
8. Do we play work-oriented, serious games?
9. Are we able to distinguish between work and hobby,
and do we become aware when a hobby has turned into a time-
consuming job, a career, or a business enterprise?
10. Do we have feelings of shame and guilt when we are
not producing something tangible during retreats, holydays,
weekends and in time of illness and convalescence?
If you answered yes to three or more of those questions,
there is a chance that you are a workaholic or well on your
way to becoming one.
After the Egyptian bondage, the Hebrews served God in
worship, work and rest (Gen. 2:1-13). Repose affected even
slaves and animals (Cf. Ps . 127:1-2). Aristotle considered
recuperative rest and cheerful play as necessities of life.
St. Thomas provides a fitting counterpoint to this
Aristotelian ethic: "Therefore, unmitigated seriousness
indicates a lack of virtue because it wholly despises play,
which is as necessary for a good human life as rest is." (13)
St. Thomas' philosophy of play is oriented towards a balanced
humanness. He sets forth in detail the virtue of eutrapelia
which enables the human person to relax, enjoy and play as a
sign of a nobly formed character and a well integrated
DISSONANCE, HARMONY AND RECOVERY
Dr. Gerald G. May, director for spiritual guidance at
Shalem Institute in Washington, D.C., claims that the
neurological, psychological and spiritual dynamics of
addiction are actively at work within every human being. "The
same processes that are responsible for addiction to alcohol
and narcotics," he explains, "are also responsible for
addiction to ideas, work, relationships, power, mood swings,
fantasies, and an endless variety of things. "(15) When we
really want to do something, some form of addiction is bound
to set in. A particular kind of personality distortion occurs
with addiction, not as its cause but as its effect. (16)
Workaholism, like alcoholism, is both a substance and a
process addiction. In alcoholism, the drinker is addicted to
alcohol (substance), and to the process of drinking (getting
drunk). Workaholics are addicted to the process of working
and to the high adrenalin level in the body. Activism
generates this body chemical. The energy surfeit overflows
and tends to block the person's ability to monitor her bodily
and psychological needs. This alienation from the body
through workaholism is propelled by a self-generated and high
adrenalin level. (17)
Stress-related illnesses eventually result from this
process. The stress which a workaholic experiences is not due
to work but rather comes from the attitude and feelings about
work. Health problems are not caused by the hours of work.
"Stress comes about when the process goes against your grain,"
says Dr. John Rhoades in the 1977 Journal of the Medical
Association. Stress suppresses the body's immune system which
then becomes susceptible to viral infection. Some stress-
related illnesses are ulcers, gastro-intestinal problems,
backaches, migraines, sleeping disorders, manic-euphoria,
severe depression, memory losses and blackouts, and periods of
temporary "comatose" during prayer. Stress is a side effect
of worry, anxiety and poor work methods and organization. A
healthy relationship with the work process is the key to the
issue of human wholeness - physical, mental and spiritual.
While the hands are busy at work, the mind and heart are
clogged with the how-to. Mental activity is also doing,
especially if it is an obsessive thinking that intrudes into
prayer, rest and sleep. (18) Addiction erodes inner freedom
and, moreover, it displaces and supplants God's love as the
source and object of true desire. Adrian van Kaam formulates
it this way: "Addiction is as fundamental a possibility of
human life as is religious presence. As a matter of fact,
they are so deeply interrelated that it can be said that
addiction is a perverted religious presence that has lost its
true object. Consequently, it enslaves instead of liberates
the person." Van Kaam does not speak here of a specific type
of addiction, but about the fundamental attitude which
underlies the concrete forms and manifestations of any kind of
addiction. It is this basic attitude which is a counterfeit
of religious presence. ( 19 )
Recovery from addiction needs the wisdom of hindsight,
prayer ,• gentleness with self and with others. Recovery cannot
be accomplished by mere effort and will power. It requires an
honest confrontation with the subtleties and liabilities of
the addictive process in the light of God's grace. In the
monastic tradition, work, like study, is an ascetical
discipline that frees the nun/monk from the tyranny of the
passions, not through the extirpation of the senses and bodily
needs, but in their harmonious ordering toward a higher end:
God and the spiritual life. We are not to deny the body what
it needs nor pamper it beyond its needs. Extreme asceticism
is just as dangerous and sensual as self-indulgence. Because
of original sin, human integration is something to be attained
through constant striving. Hence, the importance of self-
knowledge and humility.
THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ;
The rhythm of action and contemplation has been a
significant component of the monastic ideal for centuries.
There is an intimate relation of work with worship and rest.
Through the person's union with the Mystical Body of Christ
and her solidarity with the human race, work is social,
liturgical and eschatological . It perfects the created
universe and prepares humankind for the second coming of
Christ. Every Christian is called to upbuild the socio-
economic order and to make it subject to redemptive grace.
This contemporary Catholic thought had been adumbrated in
biblical and early Christian writings. Work was ordained by
God to be the rational creature's dynamic relation to the
created universe and the expression of human dignity (Cf . Gen.
1:28). Work, in its fallen state, means suffering, oppression
and death, which robs work of its lasting fruit. The
alienation from and the penal aspect of work are not proper to
its essence but are brought about by the performance of it
(Cf. Gen 3:17; Ex. 1:11-14; Dt. 28:29b-33). Yet, because work
is primarily an activity of God, it is also a way of return to
him from disintegrity and alienation (Cf. Gen. 3:17-19). The
human person as imago Dei shares in God's enabling spirit who
is ceaselessly working in external events as well as within
every human being. For God, work is not laborious, and his
creative act is entirely free in its spontaneity. The dignity
of work lies in its capacity to serve, enlighten and enrich
human and Christian living. In work, we recapitulate the
mission of Christ who became man to lead us back to the Father
(Cf. LCM 104). The work entrusted to Christians through the
second Adam empowers them to serve others in a deeply caring
way (Cf. Mt. 20:26; 25:44; Pt . 4:8-11). Through Christ, we
are all loved, accepted and have eternal worth. St. Paul's
magna carta of human work has the dynamism of law because it
is instructive, exhortatory and directional. Paul brings into
focus the obligation of work into the very heart of being
human, with its orientation towards a supernatural end in
freedom of spirit ( Cf . 2 Thess. 3:6-12).
Early in the 4th century, Athanasius, in his life of
Antony, interiorized the value of work for Christians,
stressing that it is a weapon against evil spirits;; it also
forestalls temptations .( 20 ) Ambrose of Milan, even before
Augustine, perceived the interior-exterior dimension of human
labor. For Ambrose, there is no virtue without labor, for
labor is the genesis of virtue. He also taught an asceticism
in which the virtues are precisely the virtues of Christ in
us. We seek Christ, not the virtues. (21) Monasticism, in all
ages, has discovered the necessity of tempering the work open
to nuns/monks because obviously, not all types of work are
compatible to a life of prayer, silence and enclosure ( Cf . LCM
106: III, IV). Work is to be tested against the other
elements of monastic life and must make room for the full
humanity of each person. Work, with its counterpart of study,
prayer, lectio and fasting, is an important aspect of ascetic
poverty and of common life (Cf. LCM 105: I, II )> In Dominican
monastic life, work is set in a wider perspective. It
includes physical as well as intellectual work such as study,
research and writing that are necessary and of service to the
community (LCM 106: II).
Let us recall a few traditional themes from Augustine's
writings that square with the present issue. We shall
reinforce our essay by quoting a passage from R.A. Markus who
comments on Augustine's thought about work:
Labor belongs only to man's growth and
maturity. It belongs neither to his
archetypal childhood innocence, nor to
his fully human eschatological stature. It
is a discipline, an askesis ; but a discipline
not of purgation and purification so much as
of growth. But from the primal state of
innocence, through the growing restoration
of wholeness, to the final achievement of
mature manhood, the dignity of work is man's
privilege. It is a far cry from Adam's work,
work "without the affliction of labor but with
exhilaration of will" (The Literal Meaning of
Genesis VIII, 8,15), to the work of toiling
and sinful man. But in their essence, the two
things remain the same: the worker "so to speak,
lends his skill and ministry to God the creator
in the service of nature" (ibid., IV, 16, 29) ...
To the natural order as constituted by God, man
brings his rational powers and voluntary activity
to explore, to preserve and to enhance that power
(ibid.). In this is to be found the excellence
and dignity of human work . . . magna haec et
omnino humano (The Magnitude of the Soul 33, 72)
... great and wholly human" that is his
(Augustine's) verdict on human work and its
Let us now sum up the praxis of this article with a
Twelve-Step Program for re-integration: (23)
1. We admit that work has become the inalienable source
of our identity and self-worth and that our power of loving is
losing its freedom to addiction.
2. We pray for courage to reclaim our spontaneity and
freedom of spirit (Cf. LCM I:V) and to transcend the downward
drag of human compulsion which makes work a degradation proper
to hurried slaves.
3. We have become more mindful that mere efficiency
must not usurp the space and freedom reserved for love.
4. We shall nurture every present moment with serenity,
joy and gratitude by doing one thing at a time - openly, fully
and lovingly - without stifling the precious moment with
tension, fussiness, anxiety and mental overloads of oncoming
5. We learn to prioritize by subordinating work to
prayer and contemplation according to the spirit of the
beatitudes (Cf. LCM 105:111; LCM 106:1), and we try to be
flexible to events by reorganizing lesser priorities as
6. We do not yield to pressure or attempt to pressure
others. When we feel tense, we pause to be in touch with God,
who is dynamically present in every individual 's temperament
7. We keep in mind that offices and functions are not
ways and means of possessing and controlling other persons or
stategizing our behavior towards them. Offices and functions
are channels of God's immanence in our daily living of the
8. We avoid work that creates feverish pressure and
agitation and is, therefore, incompatible with a life of
prayer. We strive to be free from work at some time each day
and for a number of days during the year (Cf. LCM 106:111,
9. We believe that the right attitude towards work and
a well-balanced distribution of work assignments are the key
to the three-part harmony of seeking, finding and
10. We rejoice in fulfilling the designs of the triune
God as we image his creative and redemptive act (Cf. LCM:104),
through the harmonious blending of work, prayer, leisure and
11. We strive to make our community a wellspring for
spiritual deepening and development and not just a place of
human resources, utility and productivity.
12. We keep closely united with Christ who endowed work
with a new power and dignity in a reconciled creation. Work
is a freedom which prepares us for entry into God's eternal
A PSALM MEDITATION
The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals;
He provides me with images of stillness, which restore
He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of
And his guidance is peace.
Even though I have great many things to accomplish
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness , his all-importance will keep me in
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my
By anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord and dwell in
his House forever. (24)
1 Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen , trans. Gabriele
Uhlein (Santa Fe, NM: Bear and Company, 1982), p. 70.
2 Cf. Summa Theologia 2a, 2ae 187.3; la, 2ae 57.3-4;
3 Marilyn Machlowitz, Workaholics; Living with them, Working
with them (Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing
Company, 1980) , p. 11.
4 Diane Fassel, Working Ourselves to Death: the high cost of
workaholism and the rewards of recovery (San Francisco:
Harper-Collins Publishers, 1990), p. 30f.
5 Ibid . , p. 27f .
6 Machlowitz, op. cit., pp. 17, 33-35, 43, 47.
7 Fassell, op. cit., p. 18.
8 Ibid . , p. 23f.
10 See Machlowitz, op. cit., p. 40f.
11 Thomas Merton, Sign of Jonas (New York: Harcourt, Brace
and Company, 1953), p. 257.
12 Quoted in Machlowitz, op. cit., p. 100.
13 Nochomachean Ethics IV, 16, 854. Quoted in Hugo Rahner's
Man at Play (New York: Herder & Herder, 1972), p. 102.
14 Cf. Summa Theologia 2a, 2ae, 168. 2-4; Cf . Aristotle,
Nichomachean Ethics X, 6, 1176 B; IV, 9, 1128 A; II, 7,
15 Gerald May, M.D., Addiction and Grace (San Francisco:
Harper and Row Publishers, 1988), p. 3f.
1 6 Ibid. , p . 55.
17 Fassel, op. cit., p. 8-9.
18 Gerald May, M.D., The Awakened Heart; Living Beyon d
Addiction (San Francisco: Harper and Row Publishers,
1991) , p. 213.
19. Adrian van Kaam, Personality Fulfillment in the Spiritual
Life ( William-Barre, PA: Dimension Books, 1966), p. 123.
20 Athanasius, The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcel li -
nus , trans. Robert C. Gregg (New York: Paulist Press,
21 Hexameron, Paradise, and Cain and Abel , trans. John Savage
(New York: Fathers of the Church, 1961), 2.2.8.
22 "Work and Worker in Early Christianity" in Work: Christian
Thought and Practice (London: Darton, Longmann and Todd,
1960), p. 23. Quoted in Sr. Agatha Mary, The Rule of St .
Augustine: An Essay in Understanding (Villanova:
Augustinian Press, 1992), p. 221.
23 A monastic adaptation of the 12-Step Program of Workaholic
Anonymou s (Los Angeles, CA: Workaholics Anonymous, 1991);
Also Gerald May, op. cit., pp. 213-232.
24 A Japanese rendition of Psalm 23. Quoted in Basil
Pennington, A Place Apart (New York: Doubleday & Company,
1983) , p. 83.
I am deeply grateful to Reverend Monsignor Andrew T.
Cusack, Ph.D., who inspired and encouraged me to write this
article and also recommended the source material for my
research. Msgr. Cusack is the National Director for Clergy
Formation which is based at Seton Hall University in South
Orange, New Jersey.
FORMED BY THE WORD, TAUGHT BY THE SPIRIT, WE DARE TO STUDY
Susan Heinemann, O.P.
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him,
God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit searches everything,
even the depths of God.
1 Cor. 2:9-10
God, the Creator of all, has offered the human family the
supernatural destiny of fellowship with himself. By his grace,
the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, we are raised to a new
level of existence wherein we are rendered capable of this divine
friendship. This elevation of our entire state of being happens
primarily through a transformation of our natural capacities for
knowing and loving. By the infused theological virtues of faith,
hope, and love, it becomes possible for God to be the object of
these human activities. By faith we believe in God and all that
he has revealed, through Scripture and Tradition, about himself
and our destiny. By hope we embrace God, trusting in his power
to accomplish all that he has promised. Hope enables us to live
in firm expectation of the resurrection and our eternal enjoyment
of God in himself. By love we are drawn into God's own
Trinitarian life. The Spirit dwelling in us enables us to love
God with, as it were, his own love. Through the theological
virtues then we are enabled to know and love God, to become
friends with God.
While God invites all to this fellowship with himself in
faith, hope and love, the way that this relationship is lived out
differs according to the unique vocation of each person. For
those called to Dominican monastic life there is a renunciation
of various legitimate human concerns and pleasures in order to be
"free for God alone." We embrace a whole way of life that is
structured in such a way as to enable us to give as full
expression as possible to this fellowship between God and his
people and to be a sign of its fulfillment in the Kingdom when
"God will be all in all." This eschatological way of life is
fostered by certain observances. One of these is theological
study. In fact this observance is considered to be one of the
outstanding observances, along with common life, the celebration
of the liturgy and private prayer, and the observance of the
vows. Why is sacred study accorded such an important place?
A closer look at what the Constitutions say about study
reveals that this observance is considered to be a means of both
basic human development and one that pertains to our specific
vocation in the Church. Concerning basic human development we
read that study is an aid to human maturity, removes impediments
that arise from ignorance, informs the practical judgment, and
aids mental equilibrium. So we can see that on a very
fundamental level study is an important means of human
fulfillment and integrity. It is an activity which actualizes
our potential: "Created minds, because their being is not
infinite, are only potential of being in general, and are
actualized by the things they understand." 1 It also perfects
our nature, for "as a creature endowed with reason man's primary
object is the acquistition of knowledge. Whenever, therefore,
his understanding is deepened, his nature is brought
correspondingly to its perfection." 2
Another reason given by the Constitutions for observing the
discipline of study is that it nourishes faith and contemplation.
How does it do so, we might ask? To address this question and to
further legitimize the importance of study in the life of the
Dominican nun is the main burden of the following pages. We will
begin by considering faith, sacred study and contemplation
separately and then attempt to explain the relationship of these
activities to one another. Faith will be considerd first as this
is the disposition from which arise the other two activities.
Faith is the gift whereby God raises our natural ability of
knowing and makes it capable of having him as its object.
Through faith we come to share in God's own knowledge of himself.
We do this not by understanding but by assenting to the
propositions of the faith. We assent to these propositions or
revealed truths because we believe him who has revealed them.
God, while not being directly perceived, remains the formal
object of faith. The direct, immediate perception towards which
our assent tends, is reserved for the blessed in heaven for whom
the light of faith has given way to the light of glory. Only
then will we see God as he is and know him with the full capacity
of our intellects. "Here in this life God presents himself to
the mind, not as evoking or making possible an act of
intellectual vision, but as calling forth the only other
cognitional union possible with him -- belief." 3 This
cognitional union prepares us for the beatific vision and "can
therefore be defined by Thomas as a habit of mind whereby eternal
life is begun in us.
Faith's act, belief, is essentially an act of the intellect
but an imperfect one that thrusts us toward our ultimate end of
the vision of God. "The mind of its nature strives towards its
own completion." Belief as a knowing is inherently imperfect:
"in so far as the light is not shared completely, the
unf ul f i 1 lment of the mind is not completely overcome and so the
pondering movement of the mind goes on restlessly.' It will
reach completion only when the "light is shared completely." In
the meantime faith must be nourished and our minds kept moving
toward their proper end.
If the mind is not nourished with Truth, the perfect
contemplation of which is its final end, it will get sidetracked.
For "whoever turns away from his due end must needs substitute an
undue one, since every agent acts for an end."' In other words,
if the mind is not occupied with God and the things of God it
will choose other ends. In the cloistered life of the Dominican
nun, where there has been a renunciation of ordinary human
concerns, this sidetracking could result in, for example, an
excessive preoccupation with one's health, or work, or other
people and their affairs.
The mind can be occupied with whatever it wants. It is up
to the will to direct it. Our desire for the good and the true
must be guided -- our faith must be nourished. Whereas "the
knowledge given with the light of glory remains permanently in
the intellect of the blessed in heaven," 8 here it requires a
continual choice. Because "appetite depends on knowledge,"' we
can only continue to make the choice for our proper end by
deepening our knowledge in faith. And since "a different level
of knowledge means a different level of desiring," the more
we know God and the things of God the more we desire him. It is
this increasing desire that will prevent us from getting
sidetracked and keep us moving toward our proper end.
"Faith in us is a divine knowing, a definite communication
of God's knowledge. But this communication is rather imperfect
and the human spirit naturally desires a fuller grasp of the
objects revealed." 11 We are therefore impelled to deepen our
grasp of this knowledge of God in himself and what he has done
for us. "This grasp can be sought either by supernatural
activity in a vital manner and tending to imitate the mode of
apprehension of God himself, [i.e. through contemplation] or by a
properly intellectual activity which follows our human mode and
is on the whole the work of theology." 12 In other words,
contemplation and study are two ways in which we deepen our grasp
of the object of faith. Let us now look more closely at each of
these activities, beginning with study.
What is sacred study? We have described faith as an assent
to the Truth who is the Triune God and the mysteries of his plan
of salvation which have been revealed to us. This revelation
generates a whole body of knowledge which invites inquiry.
Theology is the reasoned investigation into this body of
knowledge. Practiced under the guiding light of faith it
systematically delves into and explores the meaning of the
explicit as well as the implicit divine truths contained in
revelation. This activity involves the use of one's intellect,
which has been raised by grace above its natural capacity, in an
attempt to grasp discursively the truths of the Christian faith.
In discussing the activity of theology Congar states that here
"the penetration of the object is made by rational activity,
according to the laws and methods of intelligence or, more
precisely, reason." In short, theology is faith seeking
This rational activity would, however, remain sterile were
it not for the Holy Spirit's gifts of Knowledge and
Understanding which help us to enter into the mysteries we study.
"The activity of faith is taken to a higher degree of perfection
by the gift of Knowledge." The person operating under the
Spirit's gift of Knowledge possesses the ability to make a
"simple and almost instinctive judgement by which it is possible
to discern what has to be believed from what should not be
believed." 1 This gift which helps to perfect our faith gives
us a taste for, a sensitivity to the mysteries we study.
"The action of the Holy Spirit working through the Gift of
Understanding also perfects faith and makes it capable of a
certain inner penetration, the peak of which is negative in
meaning. It does .this by means of a keen appreciation of God's
transcendence...." In this way we learn what God is not and
are continually liberated from false images of him. We begin to
discover that God is no-thing, but rather the Source of
everything. There "occurs a deepening of the darkness, but it is
one that paradoxically illumines." 1 This learning of what God
is not is essential . For "man reaches the highest point of his
knowledge about God when he knows that he knows him not." 1
The precise nature of the interplay between our activity and
the Spirit's is a mystery. For,
in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit the position
of the human mind is one of moved rather than
mover. And, therefore here too, there can be
no question of how and how much. It would,
after all, be absurd arrogance to attempt to
discover the 'rules' by which the Holy Spirit
of God permeates man's reflections and
Were it not for these gifts of the Spirit our study of theology
would be lifeless. "A merely thinking theology, even though
deriving from faith, is not a fully living theology unless
quickened by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and can be a rather
arid study of concepts." 2
It is important to note, however, that while the gifts
quicken our study it is still a "thinking theology." While we
"have the. anointing that comes from the Holy One, so that all
knowledge" is ours, (cf 1 Jn. 2:20) this knowledge that we have
through the Spirit dwelling in us is not angelic knowledge. It
is not an immediate apprehension of the Truth but one that come;
to us in ways that respect the nature God has given us.
St. Thomas frequently observes how the
operations of grace, though taking us far
beyond, observe the modes of the operations
of nature .... the human mind is not stilled by
forms from another world, but must wrestle
with this one and discover what lies behind
and beyond by ranging from point to point.
This discursus is present even in the
activity of divine faith. 1
The objection might be raised: if the Word is Truth, why is
it not enough simply to read the Scriptures? In other words,
what does study contribute to the monastic person's primary
occupation of lectio divina? The Constitutions answer this by
saying that sacred study is a fruitful prepartion for lectio.
Once again we must inquire further and ask how it prepares us for
lectio. There are many ways in which it does so.
Scripture is "not merely a simple human testimony on the
action of God, nor even, as could be inferred from certain
Protestant works, a force hidden under the letter which would act
on the souls of its readers by its existential dynamism.""
Hence our reading of the sacred texts must be enlightened and
intelligent. The discipline of study helps it to be so in a
variety of ways. First, as was mentioned above, study helps us
to develop as persons. It actualizes our potential and perfects
our nature. Thus the person that we bring to the text is a
fuller one, someone who is more ripe for the relationship that
lectio is. Secondly, sacred study trains the mind to ask
questions and therefore when we sit down with the text of
Scripture it is more apt to be the real and intelligent dialogue
that it is meant to be.
Liam Walsh, O.P., in discusssing study in the life of the
Dominican nuns, said that "the only time the human mind stops
asking questions is at the Parousia." 23 We, while eagerly
awaiting the Parousia, must always guard against a spiritual
death wherein our intellects have atrophied and we do in fact
stop asking questions about the faith. Study is one of the ways
that we do this.
At this point it might be helpful to insert a word of
caution about the dangers of the opposite extreme which,
interestingly enough, Thomas posited as the more serious danger.
We must guard against an immoderate curiosity and the asking of
so many questions that we lose the ability and the requisite
stillness to listen to the answers. There is also another danger
that might be pointed out -- that of overemphasizing the
intellectual life to such an extent that we fail to take into
account individual differences. The Constitutions are quite
clear that study is to be undertaken according to the capacity of
The Scriptures contain a whole world view, a map as it were
of God's view of reality. Studying the contents in a systematic
way helps us to penetrate that vantage point more precisely, to
explore the fine details and to gain access to the annotations,
if you will, of those who have previously journeyed through and
made their home in that territory. In other words, another way
that study prepares us for sacred reading is by offering us
access to the fruits of others', centuries of others, pondering
and expounding of the mysteries contained therein. When we have
been exposed to and have grappled with these treasures, we are
inclined not only to ask questions but, the right questions. We
learn how the Church has understood and explicated the truths
contained in Scripture and our own reading of the sacred texts is
thus guided along the lines of orthodoxy.
Having pierced more deeply into the biblical world we know
it more fully and are shaped by this knowledge. Our lives are
changed and are brought into closer conformity with the way that
God knows the world to be, i.e., with Truth. This living of the
truth approaches the purity of heart to which is promised the
vision of God. Study then quite spontaneously leads to and
spills over into the other activity to which we will now turn our
attention -- contemplation.
The way that people have understood the activity signified
by the word contemplation has undergone drastic changes over the
centuries. Simon Tugwell, O.P., has suggested that the word be
dropped for fifty years or so until christians get a hold of
it. The history of what this word has meant is long and
complex and beyond the scope of this paper. Let us just say that
the working definition used here will be that of the mind
delighting in the Truth. We can speak of the mind enjoying the
First Truth, and this is perhaps the primary sense of the term.
But we can also speak of the mind enjoying the truth that resides
in all things because, as created reality, they participate in
and reflect the Being of that First Truth who is God.
Contemplation differs from theology in that, while having
the same Truth as its object, it is a resting in or gazing upon
it as possessed, rather than a grappling with it. "It is
intuitive rather than discursive because it is chiefly a vision
rather than an investigation or study."" By describing
contemplation in this way we are defining it as a primarily
intellectual activity but one which also involves the emotions
and the will. How are all of these faculties involved?
We must now speak more specifically of the theological
virtue of charity and the Spirit's gift of Wisdom which perfects
it. "With charity there is the experience of being in love with
God, of the reality believed in; this in turn becomes the basis
for a cognitive experience that sustains and deepens faith."'
This cognitive experience is the work of the Spirit's gift of
Wisdom's primary work is contemplative, the
appreciative gazing on the loveliness of God.
The intellect is moved by the impulse of the
Spirit to penetrate the deep things of God.
Yet we must note that while this knowledge is
profound and rich it is not clear. Its
perfection is not to be understood by
analogies with rational and abstract
knowledge, but rather with the obscure
process whereby a lover comes to know his
beloved, or to the poetic experience whereby
a person is grasped strongly and yet
inarticulately by the beautiful.
In combining wisdom with charity Thomas shows his genius at
work. Here he is making explicit use of the theme of the
reciprocal influence of reason and appetite that was alluded to
earlier when we spoke of the necessity of nurturing our faith.
He binds together knowing and willing, seeing
and loving. His basic insight is this:
knowledge of the goodness of an object causes
us to love it; love then brings about a
different and better knowledge; this new
appreciation deepens the love which, in turn,
intensifies the appreciation, and so on.
With great profundity Thomas "recognizes that love is more
unitive than knowledge in seeking the thing not the thing's
reason; its bent is to a real union though this can only be
constituted by knowledge." The union is constituted by
knowledge because in knowing the knower and the known are one.
It should be evident that contemplation is not understood
here as some Neoplatonic flight into another realm but a deeper
penetration into the reality of things and of God himself as a
result of our union with him in faith and charity. "By the
superhuman force of a grace-given love, man may become one with
God to such an extent that he receives, so to speak, the capacity
and the right to see created things from God's point of
view...." 3 '' One with the Father in the Son through the gift of
the Spirit we begin to know things with God's own knowledge of
The eye of perfected friendship with God is
aware of the deeper dimensions of reality....
To those who have this greater love of God
the truth of real things is revealed more
plainly and brilliantly; above all the
supernatural reality of the Trinitarian God
is made known to them more movingly and
This is christian contemplation -- perceiving God and his
reflection in all things. It is both an act and a way of life,
the fulness of which awaits the beatific vision. Now we see
dimly as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face.
Our study and our contemplation are two distinct activities
which both arise out of a faith which is animated by charity and
perfected by the gifts of the Spirit. Sharing the same source
they also share the same direct object -- the triune God. Both
activites result in an acquisition of knowledge, one which is the
fruit of the reasoning process and the other the result of an
experience of the same realities. This experience comes about as
the Spirit's gift of Wisdom confers a certain connatural ity on us
and we know things through a kinship with them. The mind
sees and tastes how all God's works are
traceable to his mercy; it tastes the
difference between love and justice in God;
it knows God's goodness because it 'suffers'
that goodnes; it is thoroughly convinced of
God's awesome power because it has been
brushed by that power and sometimes almost
crushed by that power; it understands God's
peace because it is immersed in that
Hence, while it is the same realities that are known, the mode of
the knowledge is different.
To summarize: theology is the reasoned investigation, under
the light of faith, into the mysteries of God that have been
revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition. This activity
involves the use of one's intellect in an attempt to grasp
rationally the truths of the faith. Contemplation is the
experiential, intuitive encounter with the Truth who is God, a
Trinity of persons. It is an act of the intellect which is also
an encounter in love. Theology involves a great deal of
disciplined human effort and activity -- an activity, however,
which is performed in co-operation with the Spirit. In
contemplation the person is passive and at rest because it has
attained the goal for which it was striving. The attainment of
this goal is sheer gift. Whereas in theology we are straining
toward God, engaging all our human powers, in contemplation he
bends down to us. But this bending down occurs in a way that
respects the nature he has given us, i.e., God does not impose
himself on us as an alien force but rather elevates our faculties
to enable us to receive him as a friend. In contemplation a
deeper sensitivity to divine things is born which in turn
sharpens our facility for perceiving reflections of the divine in
all of created reality and for penetrating the mysteries that we
study. Both together help us to see (albeit in faith) the good
more clearly. Hence, our wills are impelled to an increasingly
ardent reaching out toward the good in both study and prayer.
The two activities of theology and contemplation are indeed
distinct. But for a person in love with God and gifted by the
Spirit, they are simply two intimately connected activities that
support and flow in and out of one another as the person gropes
her way in faith and in the hope of the blessed day when she
shall see, face to face, him for whom she longs. Then the dark
knowledge of faith will give way to the clear knowledge of
Friends do not usually analyze their relationship in terms
of various activities and of who is contributing what to the
relationship and in what way. They are simply so caught up with
each other that distinctions of this sort seem to vanish. So it
is with doing theology and contemplating. Sometimes we are
exerting a disciplined rational effort in order to attain a
deeper understanding of the mystery of God and his economy of
salvation. Other times we are simply resting in the divine Truth
who has bent down to us and raised us up to share in his own
knowledge of things and in the mystery of his own Triune life.
We only step back to consider the relationship between these two
complementary activities with the hope that the clarity gained
will serve to foster growth in all aspects of the relationship
and enable us to articulate and share what we have received with
our friends and communities.
In conclusion, we have seen that theological study, which
arises out of faith and spills over into contemplation, is a
legitimate and important activity in our lives as Dominican nuns.
It both assists us to grow as human persons and to live our
specifically eschatological vocation. Study frees us from false
images of God and makes us alive to the truth and goodness of all
things. This in turn leads to a deeper concern for the ultimate
fulfillment of all of creation, especially that of our fellow
human beings, all of whom God desires as his friends. Thus
charity comes to perfection within us and we are shaped into more
faithful co-operators in the work of redemption. We become true
friends and servants of God who ardently long for, are moving
toward, and fixed upon that day when "God will be all in all."
1. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Th eologiae . ed . Timothy
McDermott , (Westminster : Christian Classics, 1989) lae 79, ad 2.
2. Per Erik Persson, Sacra Doctrinal Reason and Revelation in
Aquinas (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970) 36.
3. T.C. O'Brien, Appendix 1 "Objects and Virtues" in Thomas
Aquinas, Summa Theologiae . Vol 31, gen. ed . Thomas Gilby (New York:
McGraw Hill , 1972) 185 .
Please note: all subsequent references to the Summa Theologiae
and its appendices will be abbreviated S_T and taken from this
4 . Persson, 28.
5. Thomas Aquinas, III Sentences 23,2,2,i quoted by T. C.
Appendix 4 "Belief's Act" ST Vol. 31,207.
6. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate XIV 1 ad 5 quoted by O'Brien,
"Belief's Act", 214.
7. ST 2a2ae, 45 , 1 ad 1 .
8. Persson, 28.
9 . ST. la 79, ad 2.
10. ST la 80, 2 ad 1 .
11. Yves M.J.Congar, A History of Theology (Garden City: Doubleday,
12. Congar, 94.
13. Congar, 205.
14. Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit , Vol II (New York: Seabury
Press, 1983) , 137.
15. Congar, 136.
16. Congar, 136.
17. William J. Hill, The Three-Personed God (Washington: Cathol ic
University Press, 1982) 258.
18. Thomas Aquinas, On the Power of God , trans. English Dominican
Fathers (Westminster: Newman Press, 1952) VII 5 ad 14.
19. Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues (Notre Dame: Notre Dame
Press, 1965) 38.
20. ST la 1, ad 7 footnote k.
21. Thomas Gilby, Appendix 5 "Sacra Doctrina", in Vol 1 ST , 58-59.
22. P. Grelot, Interpreting the Scriptures (New York: Desclee
Co. ,1969) 211.
23. Liam Walsh, O.P., "Dominican Study and the Experience of God"
in Dominican Monastic Search , November 1984, 56.
24. Simon Tugwell, O.P. from talks given at Our Lady of Grace
Monastery, N. Guilford, CT , July 1985.
25. Jordan Aumann , Appendix 3 "Contemplation" in Vol. 46, ST., 103.
26. T. C. O'Brien, Appendix 3 "Faith and the Truth about God" in
Vol . 31, ST 204.
27. Thomas R. Heath, Appendix 4 "The Gift of Wisdom" in Vol. 35,
ST , 201.
28. Heath, 200.
29. Thomas Gilby, Appendix 10 "The Dialectic of Love in The Summa"
in Vol . 1 ST, 129.
30. Pieper, 39.
31. Pieper, 39-40.
32. Heath, 201.
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THEOLOGICAL STUDY IN THE LIFE OF DOMINICAN CONTEMPLATIVE NUNS
Sister Mary of the Trinity, O.P.
Farmington Hills, MI
The insertion of study as an observance into the 1987
Constitutions challenges individuals, monasteries, and Conferences
or Federations to take up theological study in a serious and
disciplined way. The U.S. Conference has responded by initiating
a Theological Study Formation Program for the newer members of the
monasteries. It is as a participant that I offer this reflection.
It grew out of an assignment in which we were asked to reflect on
the importance of theological study in the life of Dominican
contemplative nuns. The plan of the paper is (1) to interpret the
terms "theological study" and "Dominican contemplative nun"; (2) to
indicate the convergence and divergence between contemplation and
theology; (3) to demonstrate the importance of theological study as
a constitutive element in Oie life of the nuns.
The word theology comes from the Greek theos, God, and logos,
thought or speech. Theology one might say is thinking and
conversing about God. What are the limits of theological
discourse? This could of course be researched and developed at
length but for the purpose of this paper perhaps I may suggest two
inter-related questions. In most contemporary Catholic theology
one reflects on (1) human experience in the light of (2) the
sources of faith. In this approach tradition mediates meaning."
When contemporary theologians reflect on human experience in
the light of tradition, what develops is not a theology but a
multiplicity of diverse theologies. Theological pluralism is not,
Fr. Hill suggests, a pluralism of beliefs, because one faith
assures a continuity or cohesion in the theological endeavor. He
Such theological pluralism seems irreversible and
irremedial (sic), and moreover is one that crosses
confessional lines. Its deepest source is awareness of
the finitude of all human knowing. I f on the one hand it
has opened the way to bewilderment, producing a crisis of
theological identity making constructive theology
difficult, on the other it recalls to theology that its
* F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms , (New York: New York
University Press, 1967), pp.110, 194.
William Hill, O.P., "Theology," The New Dictionary of
Theology, J. A. Komonchak, ed. (Delaware: Michael Gl azier , Inc . ,
1987), p. 1012.
goal remains mystery that is incomprehensible and
What is it about theology that allows it to put one in touch
with Mystery? Is it the texts which enshrine the Christian
experience? Is it what these texts seek to mediate: the deepest
questions of the human heart? Or is it simply the finitude of the
human acts of knowing and loving that brings us face to face with
our need for the Infinite? Another author speaks of how knowing
and loving open one to -Mystery.
In every act of knowing and loving I am restlessly
striving beyond my present situation toward a horizon
which I can never reach but which is inescapably present
to me.... Can I content myself with limited areas of
knowledge and choice or^do I allow myself to be open to
Mystery, which is always present to me but which I t-~.
never manipulate or control.
Perhaps it is the questions that theology goes after that
bring one to a meeting with the ineffable and incomprehensible.
Eric Voegelin writing about "Question and Mystery" in The Ecumenic
Age says : "The Question [the Question capitalized is not a question
concerning the nature of this or that object in the eternal world
but a structure inherent to the experience of reality] is not just
any question but the quest concerning the mysterious ground of all
Theology might be thought of as a meeting place for mind and
heart. The heart's reasons bear on the activity of the mind and
likewise the mind's reasons bear on the heart. Perhaps theology is
at its best when one is brought into a wondering awe in the
presence of Mystery and seeks to articulate the experience
intelligently. Theological discourse stretches one beyond the
narrative and symbolic expression of the primary sources of the
faith into the realm (sometimes called a realm of theory) wherein
one seeks to objectify and communicate some aspect of Mystery
within one's contemporary culture.
3 Ibid. , p. 1017.
4 John O'Donnell, S.J., "Faith," The New Dictionary o f
Theolog y, p. 37 5.
5 Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1974), p. 320.
Dominican Contemplatives Nuns
A Dominican nun is first of all a Christian woman who
through her baptism has accepted the challenge to live out Jesus'
twofold commandment of love. Being a Dominican contemplative means
further that she chooses to live out her commitment in a specific
and radical way, namely by withdrawal from the world, and sharing
in a common life which is dedicated to prayer, study and work.
Nuns are primarily remember - ers . Dominican monastic life gives
primacy to remembering and pondering the Word of God. In the
chapter of the Constitutions entitled "Hearing, Studying, and
Keeping the Word of God" the nuns are reminded: "The purpose of all
regular observance, especially enclosure and silence, is that the
Word of God may dwell abundantly in the Monastery." This chapter
highlights two observances in which Word comes to dwell in the
cloister: lectio divina and study.
In the practice of lectio the nuns follow an ancient monastic
practice in imitation of their founder, St. Dominic. It was said
of Dominic that he always had the Scriptures close at hand and
passed easily from meditatio to oratio and from oratio to
In reading the section on study in the current Constitutions
one sees that study is meant to be formative in the life of the
It [study] not only nourishes contemplation, but also removes
the impediments which arise through ignorance and informs the
practical judgment. In this way it fosters the fulfillment of
the evangelical counsels with a more enlightened fidelity and
encourages unanimity of mind. By its very constancy and
difficulty it constitutes a form of asceticism and aids mental
The Constitutions indicate that suitable time needs to be
provided for study and libraries kept well supplied and up to date.
It is also suggested that the prioress arrange for lectures and
conferences to help promote study in the community.
In summary, a Dominican contemplative nun is a woman whose
"whole life is harmoniously ordered to preserving the continual
6 L.C.M. #96, II.
The Nine ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic , edited and
translated by Simon Tugwell O.P. (Dublin: Dominican
Publications, 1987 ) pp. 42-44.
8 L.C.M. # 100, II .
remembrance of God." And, she remembers God's presence primarily
through the observances of lectio and study. Conviction of the
primacy of these observances has grown out of the opportunity and
challenge of serious daily study for participants in the Conference
Theological Study Formation Program. It seems that lectio and
study serve our remembering in direct proportion to the
disciplined effort made toward their observance.
Theology and Contemplation
Before attempting to show the relationship between theology
and contemplation, the meaning of the latter needs to be set out.
Contemplation not only tends to be an ambiguous term but in some
quarters it also carries with it rather esoteric connotations. The
following is a brief indication of what is intended here by the
term contemplation. ^
The early Greek Fathers of the Church borrowed the word
theoria from the Neoplatonists in an effort to explain the
Christian mystery. . For the Neoplatonists theoria was the
highest activity of those seeking wisdom; it was an intellectual
vision of truth. The Fathers added to theoria the meaning of the
Hebrew term da'ath, which is a kind of experiential knowledge which
comes through love. The Fachers' expanded meaning for theoria was
translated into Latin as contemplatio. Near the end of the sixth
century Gregory the Great summed up the tradition by describing
contemplation as a knowledge of God that is impregnated with love.
In the monastic tradition contemplation came to be viewed as
the full flowering of the practice of lectio. One begins in
meditatio, moves or is moved to oratio and comes to rest in
contemplatio, a formless, imageless resting in God. In the
stillness of contemplation one no longer actively seeks but the
mind and heart come to rest in what they have desired. - '
Contemplation is then simply a resting in Truth that is beyond word
Lectio begins in a meditative reflection upon some source of
faith and ends in contemplation. The study of theology parallels
lectio in that it also begins in a reflection upon the sources of
faith and ends in contemplation. For is not the moment in which
one comes to know a moment of grasping real ity without words or
9 L.C.M. # 74, IV.
10 Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Finding Grace at the Center
(Massachusetts: St. Bede Publications, 1978) pp. 33-36.
11 Ibid. p. 37.
images; an act of contemplation, a resting in what is ? To express
one's contemplation, of course, one falls back upon images or words
to help mediate one's knowing.
If contemplation and theology begin and end in the same place
is there a distinction between them? In lectio one begins with
images, words, and moves toward relinquishing them to rest in God.
In theology one works at staying with the thinking, understanding,
judging, deciding in the hope of coming to know reality. And, one
often seeks to "objectify and universalize one's contemplation in
order to communicate one's knowledge to another."
Another way of saying the difference between theology and
contemplation might be to say that in prayer we are turned toward
God as lovers and loving becomes a way of knowing, while in study
we are turned toward God as knowers and knowing becomes a way of
Theological Study as Constitutive of the
Life of Dominican Contemplative Nuns
Is the study of theology part of the monastic tradition? The
case for theology in the life of monks and nuns from the beginnings
of monasticism is presented with great erudition by Jean Leclercq
in his book The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. In the
chapter entitled "Monastic Theology" he traces theology in monastic
life backs to its roots and makes a strong case for the existence
of theological study in the monasteries.*'
The current Constitutions (1987) indicate that those in
formation should be instructed in Sacred Scripture, liturgy, church
history, the history of spirituality and of the Order, dogmatic and
moral theology. And, in the section on study or on-going
formation for the community the Constitutions recommend that the
nuns nourish their faith on the mystical teaching of the Fathers,
St. Thomas, and other theologians and authors.* 3
In a religious Order which celebrates truth, it seems that an
openness to the gifts of mind and heart would be essential for
understanding and communicating truth. Fr. Bernard Lonergan
suggests: " Religious experience at its root is experience of an
Thomas Philippe O.P., The Contemplative Life (New York:
Crossroads Pub., 1990) p. 92.
Jean Leclercq O.S.B., The Lo v e of Learning and the Desire
for God (New York: Fordham University Press, 1961), Chapter 9.
14 L.C.M. # 119, II .
15 L.C.M. # 101, III .
unconditional and unrestricted being in love. But, what we are in
love with, remains something we have to find out." And, is it
not study, culminating in contemplation, that brings one to the
moment of the question: What is it that I am in love with?
Further light is shed on the mind/heart connection in an
article by Fr. Liam Walsh in which he speaks about a mystical
movement in study. He says: "What happens is that study begins to
bring us to the point of total renunciation of ideas and images." 1
The relinquishing of forms and images in lectio moves toward
surrender of the heart-, while total renunciation of ideas and
images in study moves toward surrender of the mind. It is an
integrated process which first requires the development and
flowering of the gifts of mind and heart. Fr. Walsh goes on to
The really profound students have come to realize through
their study that the truest, ideas are the ones which are
almost negative, the most fragile ones, those which almost
disappear. The great metaphysical ideas are couched in the
thinnest, most transparent terms .... Study itself brings one to
the point of realizing that one must eventually say 'no' to
knowledge, not in the sense of discounting it and putting it
aside, but because reality is far beyond it.
Serious study for nuns, in light of these remarks, would need to be
more than an extra tucked into an already packed day. Is it not
both a challenge and an opportunity for a total gift of oneself to
If one pf the main reasons for studying theology is to become
intelligent conversants in God-talk, the question arises, how does
this really fit into a life given over to so much silence,
solitude, and prayer?
First, one might suggest that there are those nuns who will
find it necessary and will be driven to "objectify and universalize
their contemplation" even if only to themselves. And this, it
seems, will require learning 'God-talk,' the language of
theology. Someone in the Study Program commented that theological
*' Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J., Philosophy of God and Theology
(London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973), p. 51.
17 Liam Walsh, O.P., "Dominican Study and the Experience of
God," A lecture given at the 1984 General Assembly of the U.S.
Conference of Dominican Nuns and printed in Vol . 3 of Monastic
18 Ibid. p. 63.
study is something like learning a foreign language especially in
the beginning when you need to build up a vocabulary just to start
to get the gist of what is being discussed.
Second, the Constitutions state in the article on Common Life:
"Provision should be made for conversation on doctrinal or
spiritual life. These may be held at determined times either in
groups or between two nuns." If nuns are encouraged to converse
with one another on doctrinal or spiritual matters surely as
Dominicans we would look for these to be as intelligent as possible
and out of a theologically enlightened viewpoint.
Third, since the nuns have re-captured much of the monastic
tradition formerly lost to them for several centuries (sacred study
being part of that retrieval), there arises the need to pass on
this tradition. This would call for theologically articulate
formators to impart this re-newe^d tradition in a coherent and
intelligent way to new members.
Fourth, it seems Dominic in founding an Order of Nuns ana
Friars intended some kind of continuing conversation between these
two branches as a means of mutual encouragement and support.
Fr. Walsh commenting on this relationship suggests:
The working out of that relationship involves a sharing
in each others' concerns and an ability to hold conversation
with each other. I believe that if the nuns are to relate to
their brothers who are actively engaged in the ministry of
preaching, in a way that Dominic wanted that to happen, they
need to understand the kind of questions with which they have
to deal and the kind of answers which they have to offer m
their preaching. I believe that before the nuns can carry
their preaching brethren in their hearts they have to carry
them also in their minds.
Fifth, Jean Leclercq states that one of the reasons theolog}
was done in the monasteries was because of the existence of an
L.C.M. # 6, II.
Liam Walsh, O.P., op . cit . p. 59. As pertinent examples. I
recall a meeting in our monastery between some of the students in
the Study Program and a visiting Friar to talk about the philosophy
(his field) course we had just completed, and the chance for a
profitable conversation with Fr. William Hill about his book The
Three Personed God , at the House of Studies this past summer.
These conversations could not have taken place without the
opportunity for serious study launched by the Conference Study
audience. Nuns do write letters, receive visitors, and some nuns
In considering how theological study fits into the life of the
nuns, it is instructive to consider the lived experience. In a life
where one is likely to experience many "desert" or "dark" times and
one has no outward apostolate to capture one's imagination and
expend energy on, the study of theology, as Constitution #100, II
suggests, is a necessary aid to human maturity and mental
equilibrium. Thomas Philippe says it this way:
The support given by theology is nothing in comparison
with that which the Holy Spirit can give us interiorly
through love. But when the Spirit is silent, this
presentation of the doctrines of faith can sometimes be
a help. 21
One of the most interesting descriptions or explanations of
those "desert, silent, or dark times" is found in the writings of
Jan Ruusbroec in his description of the inner life of the Trinity
as the "Common Life." Ruusbroec describes the movement within the
Trinity as a movement from silence to speech then back into
silence, then again into speech and so on and so forth. The
silence is the Father, a darkness, a moment of rest; the movement
into speech or manifestation is the Word, a light, a moment of
work. The Trinity moves back and forth in a constant ebb and flow
from silence to speech from speech to silence in an unending ebb
and flow. Perhaps one might think of this movement, the ebbing and
flowing, as the Spirit.
Ruusbroec suggests that the Christian life is an invitation to
become caught up with the Word in the ebb and flow from silence to
speech, darkness to light, rest to work in a unending movement in
which one is caught up in the eternal ebb and flow of the
If Ruusbroec's description is on the mark then perhaps the
life of the nuns might be a place in which theological study as a
regular observance might indeed fall easily into this inner divine
rhythm because of the constant movement between lectio/contempla-
tion and theology/contemplation. Perhaps one finds an example of
being caught up in this Trinitarian movement in the lives of some
of the early Fathers of the Church. For it seems they theologized
because they contemplated and they contemplated because they
theologized. Contemplation leads into theology and theology back
into contemplation in a constant ebb and flow.
21 Philippe, Ibid. p. 95.
22 Louis Dupre, The Common Life (New York: Crossroads, 1984)
Lastly, in writing on affectivity in Thomas Aauinas ' s
spirituality, Fr. Walter Principe reminds his readers that love in
Thomas's spirituality is always guided by knowledge and wisdom. He
His [Aquinas's] spirituality is a spirituality of the Word as
well as of the Holy Spirit of Love. For Thomas, loving
friendship with God should result from the mind's eager
pursuit of wisdom. Thus he [Thomas] says:
The study of wisdom is very sublime because through it we
especially reach a likeness to God, who made all things
in wisdom [Ps 103(104) : 24] . So, because love is caused
by likeness, the study of wisdom especially joins us with
God in friendship, which is why Wis 7:14 says that wisdom
is an infinite treasure for human beings; those who us.e
it become sharers in friendship with God (ScGen 1.2.).*"'
The mind's eager pursuit of wisdom through the study of
theology is, it seems, a privileged moment of contemplation, and an
appropriate endeavor for the nuns of the Order whose lives are
totally given over to knowing/ 1 oving God.
23 Walter Principe, C.S.B., "Affectivity and the Heart in
Thomas Aquinas' Spirituality," Spiritualities of the Heart , ed.
Annice Callahan, R. S.C.J. (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1990), p. 59.
THE WORK OF THE MASTER 'S HAND
Letters and Vision of Fr . Damian Byrne, P.P.
Sr. Mary Regina, O.P.
Farmington Hills, MI
Who is Damian Byrne, O.P.? We all know his credentials:
born in Ireland, Dominican missionary to Argentina, Vicar of
Religious in Trinidad, Provincial and gentle arbitrator in
Mexico, Provincial to his Dominican Family in Ireland, and then
in 1983, out of the elective Chapter of Rome, Master of the
Order of Preachers.
Has he been a Magister Ordinis who sweeps a third of the
Dominican stars with his tail? Hardly. His clear identity
throughout his nine years as Master, and certainly the dominant
tone of his letters, is that of a brother. He has exercised his
authority and expression not by macho demands, but by lived
experience, by study and reflection on the life of the Order,
past, present, future. He does this in the light of St.
Dominic's charism, as he said in his letter on Evangelization to
the Chapter of Quezon City, "What lies before us at this time
is a challenge to become what St. Dominic had begun: a family
joined in unity of life and complementarity of service to the
Church and to the world."
The general manner of Fr . Damian Byrne's letters to the
Order, while mild and not without a measure of Irish
pensiveness, are straightforward, direct. His interested
composure balances his relaxed yet head-on approach to the
details of Dominican life. He projects a keen sensitivity to
the individual and collective needs and exigencies of the entire
Further, his letters evidence a thorough study and personal
grasp of the Acts of General Chapters, past and present. He
recalls quite frequently those of the Avila Chapter, of Bogota,
Oakland, River Forest, Rome, Walderberg, Quezon City. These are
like a revolving table that continually returns to the reader's
attention. References are also made to the Primitive
Constitutions, and, of course, to LCO. All this is like a kind
of university learning-ground where he pockets away the
necessary tools to assist the Order in the implementation of our
decisions on preaching, Dominican life in common, collaboration,
the four priorities, the frontiers, formation, evangelization,
prayer and reflection. When it comes to study, he pulls the
anchor up and rolls out to sea as stress and measure are applied
to theological and philosophical study, as well as the study of
the problems of our time.
In his letters to the Order, Fr. Byrne rivets to the
ecclesial just as fast-firm as Dominic. The very foundation
stones of these letters are based on the teachings of Vatican II
and post-conciliar documents. The magnificant statement on the
mission of the Order, the oxygen and life of the entire notion
of frontiers, the very breath and wind of the letter on
evangelization is the result of the same "open window" that
ushered in "Lumen Gentium" and "Gaudium et Spes." Fr . Byrne's
going with the flow of the Church has rhyme and reason: "St.
Dominic created the Dominican Family, not for itself, but to be
at the service of the Church in its mission to the world."
We would expect a Damian Byrne, 0. P., to employ the term
"mission to the world." His own personal key that unlocks the
door to the missionary work of the Order can only be Paul VI 's
apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Nuntiandi." His contemplation
is closeted here, and he shares the fruit of this prayer in
every letter. Yet his attitude is not confined to me and mine.
"Mission on the frontiers," he writes, "calls from us an
attitude of deep compassion for people, especially those on the
fringes of the human community."
His written statement on our Dominican common life is
presented in the light of all that has been traditionally
understood, but examined also under the insights of Vatican II
and the statements of our recent General Chapters. Structures
need to be consistent with the structures of the Church. Our
prayer, faith sharing, study, fraternal correction, vows,
decision-making, and community building receive thorough-going
and creative treatment.
Our brother, Damian Byrne, views obedience in terms of
listening to each other in community. He knows the truth of his
sharing here. He himself has listened. As we have seen, he has
listened to the voices of the past, of the Order, of the
Church. He listens to the contemporary voices: Fernandez,
Congar, de Couesnongle, you and me. Yet his vision of obedience
extends beyond the individual one-on-one response. "We must
have the strength to accept the obedience which decision-making
imposes on us."
Two complementary letters, "The Challenge of Evangelization
Today," and "The Ministry of Preaching," have particular impact
since they address the very core of our purpose and calling. We
are reminded of Dominic's three-fold method of evangelization.
He preached in poverty on the apostolic mode. His method was
itinerancy, apostolic mobility. He put himself under tne
obedience of the Church. Fr . Byrne quotes Paul VI: "The
Dominican Order would undoubtedly sin against itself if it
turned a'way from this missionary duty." He further cites
William of Montferrat, who stated, "Dominic was filled with a
greater zeal for the salvation of all than anyone else I have
ever met. "
In addition to searching for new methods of evangelization,
we must also be keenly aware of inculturation. "Wherever
Christianity exists it is incarnate in a culture." Fr.
Byrne announces the need for an international approach to the
work of evangelization. As is typical, he places our effort of
inculturation in its proper setting in that it is an "ecclesial
We are designated and branded preachers. "St. Dominic
wanted his Order to be called Preachers. This is the title he
chose for himself and his companions, the title granted by the
Church. It determined not only his mission but his entire way
of life. While many are called to preach, there is a need for
an Order of Preachers to remind the Church of its preaching
mission." Fr. Byrne states the above while acknowledging that
our preaching is first delivered through the witness of our
lives. He insists that every member of the Order participates
in this preaching mission. "It is precisely here, through the
witness of their lives, that our contemplative sisters are at
the heart of our preaching family."
The credible witness of every Dominican comes from reading,
pondering and living the word of Scripture. It is primarily the
witness of Jesus we seek to assume and preach. Further, this
proclamation must be prophetic and doctrinal. And while Fr.
Byrne emphasizes "word and sacrament" with regard to preaching
in a liturgical context, he restates the role of Dominican women
in the foremost charism of the Order: "I urge Dominican
sisters, both active and cloistered, to take advantage of every
opportunity to preach which is open to them and in accordance
with the circumstances of their lives."
Damian Byrne, a master preacher, knows what he states when
he writes about preaching as our identity, when he gathers up
notions of hope from the Gospel. "Our job is to proclaim the
hope of the Gospel more frequently and preach to the limit of
our vision even though we do not fully embody that vision. Like
Dominic we are not prophets of doom or misfortune. Like Jesus,
he did not announce bad news. He announced good news. He was a
prophet of hope."
Our brother Damian penned a marvelous document on
collaboration in the Dominican Family: "In Collaboration
Together." This letter was written originally as an address to
Dominican women superiors as they gathered in Rome, May 17,
1991. The absolute sincerity of the sentiments of this work is
testified by so many letters prior to this one, encouraging
collaboration among the members of the Order. When he writes on
preaching, evangelization, formation, you name it, he
unfailingly promotes collaboration.
Fr . Byrne knows how to strike at the core of his topic. In
this letter on collaboration, he states, "I believe that it is
only when we accept each other as equals that we can collaborate
effectively together in ministry. This is the only basis for
collaboration." Joint efforts are proposed in ministery of
the word, in retreats, formation, promoting vocations, and in
works such as justice and peace. And what does it take? Here's
his formula: adaptation, acceptance, time, recognition of a
different approach, respect for one another's space, rhythm and
implementation. He wisely finishes this list off with: "Beware
Formation, like collaboration, enters into almost every one
of Fr. Byrne's letters in one form or another. Culled and
stacked together and placed with the two major letters on the
subject, they would reveal a thorough study. And while invited
to focus on the new members in their fomration, we are reminded
that for every Dominican, formation is a life-long process.
Those who enter should be assisted toward the development of
independence, decision-making, and normal relationships. Their
foundation must be human, religious, intellectual and pastoral.
The Dominican community, he says, should stand as a "Sancta
Praedicatio" for those in formation, so that they may see the
link between our study and our preaching.
Fr . Byrne's vision for the future is mapped out well in his
letter on study. We are reminded that study was emphasized
throughout the Primitive Constitutions, and even to this day it
forms the preacher for the work of salvation. As St. Thomas
picked up his intellectual tools to weed out and cultivate, so
are we to uphold and purssue the theology of the goodness of
creation and reject dualism. The soil for study is nourished by
encouragement, atmosphere, a rhythm of life, personal devotion,
discipline, dedication, personal endeavour, perseverance,
application, investigation, critical reflection, and the
greatest of these, says Byrne, is critical reflection. He
indicates that critical reflection and theological reflection
are close kin cousins. Those engaged in this discipline and
prayer may admit they merge into one.
Fr . Damian quotes Gilbert of Tournai , "We will never
discover the truth if we are content with what we have
discovered. The writers who went before us are not our masters
but our guides." Fr. Damian Byrne guides us ever forward.
We are not to grapple with the problems of the past that have
been proved, but with the problems of the present that need
investigation under the light of the Gospel. We stand atop the
mountain with this man who sees its other side. All that our
Brother, Damian Byrne, has written is full of truth. With him
we follow the truth, the message of the Gospel, into the future.
1. I.D.I. , #259 9. ibid.
2. I.D.I. , #289 10. ibid.
3. I.D.I. , #238 11. I.D.I. , #269
4. I.D.I. , #262 12. I.D.I. , #298
5. I.D.I. , #259 13. ibid.
6. ibid. 14. I.D.I. , #296
7. ibid. 15. I.D.I. , #130
8. I.D.I. , #269 16. ibid.
JOURNEY TO XMTXMACY
Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P.
The spiritual journey to intimacy with God begins with a
divine attraction inviting us to new horizons. Our guide leads
us beyond familiar and comfortable plains up a high mountain
where he nourishes us with the food of the Word for our journey.
It is an adventuresome journey of trust and dependence not with-
out cost but yielding a priceless relationship.
Every journey has a point of departure. In order to move
ahead one must leave something or someone behind. Every newly
married couple in a sense must leave behind father and mother
and move on to a new life with his/her spouse.
Relationships begin when two individuals meet or are intro-
duced. In the divine romance God is the one taking the initia-
tive. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush that was not con-
sumed by fire and in so doing captured his attention. Moses
approached, being drawn by something beyond his comprehension.
He left the sheep and sought the Shepherd of Israel. He began a
journey from "knowing about" God, to "knowing" him and
ultimately speaking to him as friend to friend.
In his gospel St. Matthew portrays Jesus as a new Moses on
a new mountain, giving a new law. And yet Jesus, the Word made
Flesh, is far greater than Moses. The Israelites, being struck
with fear, could not draw near to God. On the contrary, the Son
of God, like a divine magnet, instills men and women with trust
and confidence and draws them up the Mount of Beatitudes.
The first to be called and drawn were Peter and Andrew as
they were casting a net into the sea. That £^cQtc oirt<r<j uov :
"Come on behind me..." (Mt. 4:19) was so irresistible that
immediately leaving their nets, they followed him. That moment
in time in which they heard the voice of the Word calling them
became their departure point. They embarked on their journey
to intimacy instantly, without provisions, and leaving behind
all that they had hitherto depended upon. This "casting off" of
the familiar for the "yet to be" was the beginning of their
transformation from fishermen to disciples, from professionals
to students. From the experience of this encounter their lives
would never be the same.
So, too, for James and John, who not only left their nets
but also "abandoned ship" and father. The call to intimacy
demands an immediate, wholehearted response at all costs.
The word for "follow", <xKo\o<J (? Lu) , means not only to follow
but to follow as a disciple, to imitate. They followed Jesus,
the Way of Life, who would teach them a new way of living.
Moses went up Mt . Horeb to receive the law from God that he
in turn might give it to the Israelites. Jesus leads his disci-
ples up the Mount of Beatitudes and teaches them with authority.
Jesus goes beyond the Mosaic code and takes us straight to God.
Atop the Mount of Beatitudes between heaven and earth, at
the heart of the Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus teaching his
disciples about prayer. What is prayer? For Adam it was enjoy-
ing God's presence while walking with him in the garden of Eden
in the cool of the evening; it was listening to God and speaking
to him. For the psalmist it was crying out to God with mind,
heart and emotions. We are "hard put" to find a definition of
prayer in the scriptures but the scriptures are filled with peo-
ple praying to God. It is almost as natural as breathing.
God's utterance of "The Ten Words" 1 , the Ten Commandments,
in the Old Testament were for the most part prohibitions: "You
shall not..." It is interesting to note that Jesus' instruction
on prayer begins with a plural future of prohibition, OUK. z<rt<r$i ;
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites"
(Mt. 6:5) .
Three times a day, at 9 A.M., noon and 3 P.M., the Jew
would daily say the Shemoneh 'esreh, the "Eighteen" prayers,
wherever he happened to be. Thus one could arrange to be on the
street corner or top step of the synagogue, etc., while standing
with hands stretched out, palms upward and head bowed. 2 It was
easy for the hypocrites to be seen as they made a display of
prayer. And indeed Jesus tells us their purpose was that they
might be seen by men. Their prayer could hardly be called
prayer. "When a man begins to think more of how he is praying
than of what he is praying, his prayer dies upon his lips." 3
Jesus using the present tense, a progressive of description
here, tells us that the hypocrites with their commercial mental-
ity "are receiving their reward" (Mt. 6:5). It is as a receipt,
"Paid in full!". 4
Jesus, being practical and constructive, speaks in the
singular as he addresses each one of his disciples. His use of
the singular personal pronoun <rv , you, and its placement at the
very beginning of the sentence give it emphasis and make it
clear that he is speaking to each one personally and to all.
"But when YOU pray, go into your room and having closed your
door, pray to your Father who is in that secret (place)..."
(Mt. 6:6) .
Here we have the seed of true prayer planted in the heart.
Basically, Jesus is saying : Go into your bedroom, where no one
will see or disturb you. There pray to your (singular pronoun)
Father, who is in heaven and your (singular) Father, who sees in
secret will reward you. We see here a relationship: father and
child. This personal relationship and dialogue is itself a
This particular verse in the Greek can be translated in
various ways due to the use of the article T u-» as a relative
pronoun with an elliptical verb and the substantival use of the
adjective ko vttt^j with its article as a demonstrative pronoun:
"..and pray to your Father, who (is) in that secret (place)..."
(Mt. 6:6) .
"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and
pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who
sees in secret will reward you" (RSV) .
"But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you
have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that
secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in
secret will reward you" (JB) .
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and
when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is
in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall
reward thee openly" (KJV) .
"But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door
and pray to your father privately. Your Father who sees
all private things will reward you" ( Phillips Modern
English ) .
"But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and
shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly,
and your Father, who knows your secrets will reward you"
( Living Bible ) . 6
Of the translations examined, I found the Revised Standard
Version to be the best translation and the Jerusalem Bible close
behind. The King James Version has tried to express the emphatic
YOU at the beginning by making it vocative and has added
"openly" at the end of the verse, which is clearly not in the
Greek. The Phillips Modern English is poor in translating
K/> V TV T t£) as an adverb and again as accusative rather than
locative. The Living Bible is a very poor translation if it can
even be called such.
After instructing the disciples where to pray, Jesus N then
teaches them how not to pray. Here we find the main verb pq
flcu-rTa,\oyr\<rr)T£ in the second person plural aorist subjunctive
with the negative and translated as "don't ever babble..." (Mt.
6:7). These Gentiles imagine they will be heard by means of
their much speaking or wordiness. Again using the aorist sub-
junctive of prohibition, Jesus continues: "Don't ever become
like them..." (Mt. 6:8). Of the six versions I examined, none
clearly conveys the idea of a prohibition of an action not yet
begun. The Living Bible totally omitted the phrase!
The "magical" prayer of the babblers is an imaginary
attempt to manipulate gods, who are not. 7 Jesus puts prayer on
a Father - child relationship. "Your (plural) Father knows what
you need before you ask him" (Mt. 6:8).
At the summit of the Mount and at the heart of the sermon,
Jesus, our Lawgiver, leads us beyond the mountain to heaven
itself as he instructs us how to pray. 8 By calling God "Father"
we find ourselves in a relationship with him. By calling him
"Our Father," our relationship reaches not only upward, but
establishes us as brothers and sisters with the privileges and
responsibilities of family members.
The Lord's Prayer is so familiar to us Christians that we
can say it routinely with our lips without realizing what we are
saying. Studying the Greek text can make it come alive and give
us a greater appreciation of what we are actually saying.
The first three petitions are prayers for the glory of God
and all three begin with an aorist imperative verb. Since it is
an imperative of request or entreaty, i.e., of a subordinate to
a superior, child to father, it is fitting that "please" be used
in the translation because it most effectively conveys the mean-
ing. "Please let your name be reverenced" (Mt. 6:9) or "treated
as holy" conveys a respectful petition full of desire. Some-
thing is lost when "please" is omitted. "May your name be
hallowed" (Mt. 6:9) has a wishful tone and is weak in expressing
a strong personal desire. For the Semitic the "name" was syn-
onymous for the person. 9 St. Cyprian says: "It is not that we
think to make God holy by our prayer; rather we are asking God
that his name may be made holy in us. Indeed, how could God be
made holy, he who is the source of holiness?" 10 John Meier
points out that this is a theological passive. 11 God is the
agent. We are asking God to enable us to give him the rever-
ence he deserves and demands as our heavenly Father.
"Please let your kingdom come; please let your will be
done" (Mt. 6:10) is a parallelism. It was used by the Hebrews
to say the same thing in two ways. 12 Luke does not have this
repetition or added explanation, while Matthew "explains that
the kingdom means the will of God on earth". 13 God's kingdom is
a society upon earth where God's will is as perfectly done as it
is in heaven. "The Kingdom demands the submission of my will,
my heart, my life. It is only when each one of us makes his
personal decision and submission that the kingdom comes... (We)
pray that we may submit our wills entirely to the will of
Our journey to intimacy will take us down the Mount of
Beatitudes to the Garden of Gethsemani. Here Jesus' prayer ends
with a conditional. "If this (cup) cannot pass unless I drink
it, please let your will be done" (Mt. 26:42). This last
clause is exactly as it is in the Our Father: words, their
order, tense and even accent marks. Clearly Jesus' prayer is
not simply one of resignation but an imperative entreaty made in
love and trust, sure of God's love and wisdom.
Let us turn now to the petition for forgiveness, which
Jesus reinforces at the end of the prayer itself. Like the
aforementioned petitions, the verb, aorist imperative of
entreaty, holds prominence at the beginning of the sentence;
however, it is second person rather than third. "Please forgive
us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt. 6:12).
In praying thus we give God a comparative measuring stick as it
were in the word u>s : "as we also have f orgiven. . . " (Mt . 6:12).
Here "our discipleship is put to the test again and again,
and endless forgiving does not come easy" 13 Jesus, himself,
leads the way and preaches by example from the pulpit of the
cross. Luke gives us Jesus' first words from the cross, using
aorist imperative of entreaty: "Father, please forgive them..."
(Lk. 23:34). He uses the imperfect tense ( £X£.y£V ) showing con-
tinued or repeated action. Thus we translate: "Jesus kept say-
ing: 'Father, please forgive them...'" (Lk. 23:34).
"To be forgiven we must forgive, and that is a condition of
forgiveness which only the power of Christ can enable us to ful-
fill." 16 "We have a responsibility to imitate God, to follow
his lead in forgiving." 17
Speaking of forgiveness and it being a prerogative of God,
Gregory of Nyssa concludes: "If therefore a man imitates in his
own life the characteristics of the Divine Nature, he becomes
somehow that which he visibly imitates." 19 Is that not where
the journey to intimacy leads? Transformation into Christ or as
the mystic would say: to become "another Himself"! For that
brings us full circle in the journey to intimacy. Jesus, who
came forth from the Father, catches us in the divine embrace and
takes us with and in him to the Father through the Spirit. "To
fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances, to seek
him the greatest adventure and to find him the greatest human
achievement . M1 9
1. Alexander Jones, God's Living Word (Glen Rock: Paulist
Press, 1965), 18.
2. William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1.
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 197.
3. loc. cit.
4. John P. Meier, Matthew (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael
Glazier, Inc., 1980), 58.
5. Meier, 59.
6. The Six Version Parallel New Testament (Carol Stream,
IL: Creation House, 1974), 14-15.
7. Walter R Roehrs, Martin H. Franzmann, Concordia Self-
Study Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1979),
8. Hilda C. Graef, St. Gregory of Nyssa (New York: Newman
Press, 1954) , 35.
9. Barclay, 205.
10. The Liturgy of the Hours Vol. 3. (New York: Catholic
Book Publishing Co., 1975), 363.
11. Meier, 60.
12. Barclay, 211.
13. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E.
Murphy, eds . , The New Jerome Biblical Commentary . (Englewood
Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990), 645.
14. Barclay, 212.
15. Roehrs, N.T. 21.
16. Barclay, 224.
17. Brown, 645.
18. Graef, 71.
19. St. Augustine
MY EYES ARE EVER TOWARDS THE LORD
A look at the expression of the vows
according to Blessed Jordan of Saxony
Sr . Mary Catharine of Jesus
"From the day when you proposed in your mind to seek:
and search out how you should leave wholly behind you not
only your own kinsfolk and possessions but even your own
self you became most lovable to the Lord" (Vann 152).
The words are those of Bl . Jordan of Saxony, second
Master of the Dominican Order. Although written sometime
near the beginning of the thirteenth century, they carry a
movement of joy and an ageless spirit which make them as
applicable to us as to the Benedictine nun they were
originally addressed to by Jordan.
Jordan's unique spirit, a spirit of joy thrusting
upwards to God, has seized the minds and hearts of
Dominicans for generations—but especially of the Nuns of
What is it that makes Jordan so timeless, so
attractive? Why is it that his message is as relevant
now as it was almost 800 years ago?
Perhaps more than anyone else, Jordan captured the
kernel, the heart of the evangelical counsels, allowing them
to give life, to foster a living spirit of love. By not
getting bogged down by externals but living always with a
motive of love, Jordan's leitmotif, "My eyes are ever
towards the Lord" (Ps 25), inspired him as a true son of St.
Dominic to share this with others. Fortunately for us,
Jordan's ideals and love for evangelical life have been kept
alive through his many letters.
Surprisingly, Jordan writes very little on the
vows themselves. Once one realizes, however, that
"the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience were
not systematized, theologically and canonically, until around
the end of the twelfth century" (Laurentin 42), it is clear
that for Jordan these vows were only the beginning, the
springboard. What is important is being imbued with their
spirit and growing in Love through them. It is the goal,
that of "turning towards the Lord", that is of
Obedience--The Sign of Unity
In the approximately fifty-six extant letters of Bl.
Jordan only one reference is made to the vow of obedience
itself. One gets the idea that obedience was not the
stumbling block for them as it is for us. One must also
remember that the social system of Jordan's time was such
that almost everyone was part of the feudal system--that of
lord and serf, and of lord and vassal.
The custom of lord and serf was almost that of
slavery. One was born into serfdom, and a serf and his
children were bound to the land and service to the lord. It
is interesting that until the latter part of the middle ages
the lord lived, worked and ate with his serfs (perhaps where
we got the idea of first among equals?) mitigating to a
great extent his autocratic power.
But the most distinctive form of medieval lordship was
that of feudalism (from the Latin, f eudam meaning fief).
In exchange for a grant of land or for services a man would
place himself under the lord's protection as his "man"
or vassal. This in turn created what was called a feudal
bond characterized by several symbolic acts.
The first of these was homage, the process by which
the man knelt and placed his hands between those
of his lord, so putting himself at the lord's dis-
posal and under his protection. (Encyclopedia
The other two external acts were the oath of fealty,
and the investure by which the lord handed over some token
of the fief to his new "man". Only by knowing the milieu ,
the customs of Dominic and Jordan's times can we understand
why Jordan wrote in describing obedience:
"Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord--the joy of that
Lord to whom in particular you have sworn fealty,
the Order of Preachers" (Vann 80).
For Jordan this exhortation was not merely poetic
license but a reflection of the reality of his times. In
entering the Order, a person placed herself at its service,
establishing a very personal bond with the Order as the way
of accepting the authority of the superior.
This in turn explains how the "oath of fealty" differed
from the other Orders of the time, namely the Benedictines.
It did resemble that of Cluny but with one major difference:
while the monks of Cluny and its daughterhouses made their
profession to the Abbot of Cluny only and not to his
delegates, (they were very particular about this), Jordan was
concerned only that the profession be made (Mandonnet 303).
Those sisters who ought to have taken their vows
by now may safely do so in the hands of the
Prioress or of the Prior of our convent there or
one of the Provincials acting in my name; and this
will give me as much joy as if they were making
their profession in my own hands, nor must they
ever feel any misgivings about this procedure
(Vann 110) .
Also intimately- tied in with obedience was the now
famous trademark of Dominican law--that of dispensation.
This was highly valued by Jordan and he had very strong
words about it to the Prior-provincial, Br. Stephen, who had
questioned a decision of the preceeding General Chapter:
As for other matters: if anyone supposes that I
have not the power of dispensation with regard to
the Order's regulations, that seems to be the same
as saying that the office of Master General was
never committed to me. Nothing in the
constitutions, however grave, is to be regarded as
being beyond my power to dispense with if I think
fit to do so in view of special needs of times, places
and persons, except for the three laws which, at the
last Chapter of Paris (1228), were so firmly
established as not to allow of either revocation
or dispensation. . . . ( 144) .
This letter more than any of the others shows
not only his brilliance and capabilities but also his great
humility. He had no confusion about what was expected of
him or of how he should carry out the office of Master
Poverty — The Expression
For Jordan, poverty was the foundation and expression
of both an interior and exterior living of the evangelical
counsels. As is well known, in the beginnings of the Order
poverty was the unique mark of the friar causing the
Franciscans and Dominicans to disagree on the extent and
manner of its expression. For the Franciscan poverty was
the ideal, but for the Dominican poverty was only one of the
means towards the goal--contemplation and the salvation of
For Jordan, while exterior poverty was not only
necessary but also something to strive for, it was the
interior poverty of spirit that he was most concerned about:
But what am I saying? Is it really poverty that
you have chosen? Rather it is poverty that you
have thrown aside and riches you have chosen; for
the poverty of Christ is willed poverty, that
poverty of spirit which gives you the kingdom of
heaven ( 70 ) .
And in this same letter to Diana, Jordan goes on to
link the ideal of poverty not with "the Son of Man has
nowhere to lay His head" (Mt 8:20 RSV), but with "No one
has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's
friends"(Jn 15:13). It is the poverty of this self -emptying
that becomes perfect love and Jordan with all the charm of
his times calls this love "flawless gold" (70).
Poverty was not simply the renunciation of goods. It
was deeper than that: it was a way of life. This was
particularly to be expressed in the poverty of community
life lived in unity in the Lord.
The thought of you all rejoices my heart, beloved
daughters, since I know how eagerly, in unity
together, you walk with the Lord, seeking nothing
save Him in whom alone is your sufficiency and
without whom all possessions must be not wealth
but penury. And Him you possess more completely,
the more completely you give yourselves to Him,
withdrawing yourselves in body and mind alike from
this present world so as to belong to your
Bridegroom alone. . . . ( 106) .
One cannot but be attracted and filled with enthusiasm
at Jordan's joyous embracing of this poverty filled with
Christ's love. "Poverty, humility, love are words for him
which mean, even on earth, richness and joy and fullness of
life" (44). Joy in Christ was the continuous theme in
Chastity -- The Undivided Heart
He calls Diana his daughter in loving awe of the
Father, his sister by adoption in the Son, his beloved in
the love of the Holy Spirit and his companion in the
religious life. Even with our twentieth century mentality
it is enough to warrant a second look and the raising of a
few eyebrows. These terms of affection startle us; it
does not fit in with our expectations of "holy" people,
especially priests and nuns in the thirteenth century.
But for all our apprehensions, Jordan and
Diana's relationship, a relationship in which each is
constantly urged closer to God, warms our hearts. "This is
how it should be", we think.
"There is another word that I send you, small and
brief: my love, which will speak for me to your love in your
heart and will content it. May this word too be yours, and
likewise dwell with you forever" (112).
After years of chastity meaning rigidity, coldness and
the lack of affection, it is encouraging to discover its
original meaning in the early days of the Order.
It is in regard to chastity more than any of the other
vows that Jordan's eyes are ever towards the Lord. As with
the other two counsels, Jordan expresses concern that it be
total and interior and that there be moderation in the
ascetical practices connected with chastity:
For, as I have often warned you, bodily exercise
is profitable to little, and in vigils and fastings
and tears the due measure is easily exceeded; but
virtue-humility and patience, kindness and
obedience, charity also and sobriety- can never
grow to excess (103).
And in yet another letter:
"For as I have often warned you and shall warn you
again: in vigils, in fasting, in tears too, it is easy to
fall into excess; but virtue can never grow to excess"
True to the developing Dominican charism, Jordan's
concern was not so much that faults be rooted out but that
the nuns grow in virtue.
Repeatedly, Jordan reminds Diana and her community whom
they love and by whom they are possessed. Christ is always
"You have contemned the kingdom of this world and all
its pomps for the love of Jesus Christ your beloved
Bridegroom" (70) .
"Let the loving thought of your Br idegroom be constantly
in your -minds; let there be purity of heart " (73).
Contrary to the ideas of the Catharists, Jordan insisted that
there also be reverence and respect for the body precisely
because it was the temple of the Holy Spirit (thus the need
"The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple;
nor is there any doubt but that the Lord is in His holy
temple, dwelling within you" (79).
And finally there is also the now famous solicitous
concern for Diana's injured foot:
"Your poor foot, which I hear you have hurt, hurts me
too; and makes me the more anxious that you should take more
care not only of your foot but of your whole body" (135).
But while Jordan repeatedly pointed out the goal to the
nuns-that of union with God-in his practical way he also
knew that there would be times of loneliness and even
"Find comfort in the only begotten Son of God, your
Bridegroom, in whose presence we shall again see our
friends, and in whom and before whom we shall rejoice, as
they that rejoice in the harvest" (89).
"Be confident and gay; and what is lacking to you
because I cannot be with you, make up for in the company of
a better friend, your Bridegroom Jesus Christ whom you may
have more constantly with you in spirit and truth" (109) .
I hope in a small way I have been able to share with
you what I think were Jordan's ideas on evangelical life. In
ending I close with words that I think he would say to us if
he lived today:
"Again I say to you: do not be afraid; I will be to you
a father, and you shall be to me a daughter and the bride of
Christ Jesus" (69) .
"Fealty". The New Encyclopaedia Britannica .
15th ed. 1990
Laurentin, Rene. The Meaning of Consecration Today : A
Marian Model For A Secularized Age . Trans.
Kenneth D. Whitehead. San Francisco: Ignatius,
Mandonnet, OP, Pierre. St . Dominic and His Work .
Trans. Sr . Mary Benedicta Larkin, OP. St. Louis:
B. Herder, 1948.
Vann, OP, Gerald. To Heaven With Diana ! . New York:
soul Tiiaes up
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be*ise)p it? ?^.
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A NEVER FADING VISION
Sister Mary Emmanuel, O.P.
West Springfield, MA
Out of the 1992 General Assembly of the Dominican Nuns a
whole new web of relationships and experiences will be formed.
The theme chosen, "Reclaiming the Dominican Vision for the
Twenty-first Century," makes us reflect upon the roots of our
communities. Each community's story tells its faith- journey .
From what we know of contemplative communities, one can
readily say that one common and vibrant incentive in attaining
holiness was, and is, devotion to Saint Joseph, the foster-
father of Jesus. Saint Joseph is acknowledged as the
protector of the universal Church, guardian of virgins, patron
of Christian families and patron of the interior life. As
early as the seventeenth century, Saint Joseph was honored in
the liturgy of the Church. In later centuries, the Church
began to give more notice to him whom the Gospels call "a just
man," 1 and the faithful found solace in paying him the homage
due to him.
We read in the Gospel how Saint Joseph fulfilled his
task as God's trusted steward. His entrance into the plan of
salvation was indirect, yet still of great importance. Though
aware that he was the head of the household, yet he served
Mary and the boy Jesus. By God's direct choice, he was the
protector and witness of the virginal motherhood of Mary, the
child's legal father, and the head of the Holy Family. The
name the child would bear was first entrusted to Joseph. It
was his privileged duty to assist in the education of Jesus,
Wisdom Incarnate. When the message of the Incarnation was
given to Joseph in the command to "take Mary as your wife, for
that which is to be born of her is of the Holy Spirit," 2 he
embraced the duties of fatherhood with peace and gentleness.
The choice of Joseph as father fulfilled the prophecy that the
Messiah would be of the royal lineage of David. Through this
text we see that Saint Joseph is drawn into the divine plan
and history of salvation. His role is unique and divinely
In their little village of Nazareth, Joseph and Jesus
attended a Friday evening service composed of blessings and
prayers which introduced the faithful into the sacred world of
the Sabbath. On the platform in that village synagogue stands
an adult and a child. The child repeats "in a treble voice
some rrtual chants intoned by the adult who seems to be his
teacher, submitting him to a kind of test. The teacher, using
a pointer, guides the child in reading the inspired lines
written on the scroll. The boy frames his chanting of the
Sabbatical lessons with ritual blessings, and he practices the
reading of the Law." 3 This same procedure is repeated every
Friday for a child who is preparing himself for BAR-MITZVAH.
The "teacher may be the rabbi or the synagogue cantor. In
this particular case, the teacher may even be Joseph, the
father of the neophyte Jesus." 4
By our vocation we are being called to be guardians of a
holy, precious gift: God's grace in us and about us. Like
Saint Joseph, our Constitutions stand beside us as our teacher
and guide, instructing us that "to presevere faithfully and
courageously in continence, the nuns cultivate close communion
with God through intimate friendship with Christ in all the
circumstances of life. They should nourish this with the
Sacred Scriptures and the Eucharist, and strengthen it by
loving devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God." 5
Saint Joseph, director, friend and protector of souls
who aim at perfection, pray for us. 6
Joseph and Mary, as the Gospels relate, were people of
little means, but they were filled with Jewish spirituality.
Being a devout man, Saint Joseph found in the Law and word of
God something reliable. For him the service of God was not a
matter of pious feelings, but a matter of faithfulness in the
service of God. Every Sabbath, in their village of Nazareth,
Jesus accompanied Joseph to the synagogue. Jesus watched as
Joseph donned his prayer shawl and whispered the prayer of
sanctif ication. Then Joseph uncovered his head, laid the
shawl over his shoulders, and "said the first blessing which
marks his participation in the Saturday morning service. As
Jesus watched Joseph carry out these traditional gestures,
speaking words directly inspired by God, he realized that the
humble village carpenter is exercising his priestly dignity." 7
What an awe-inspiring sight! It is a crucial moment; Jesus
has entered into the timeless realm of prayer. The Gospels
also relate for us that it was Joseph's custom to go "to
Jerusalem every year for the Passover festival," 8 showing
us what was the most important element in his life. In
silence and loyalty he served the God of the Covenant.
Saint Teresa of Avila often said that she had never
asked a favor from Saint Joseph without obtaining it. And she
exhorted her Carmelite daughters to ask the gift of prayer
from him, who had been so familiar with Jesus and Mary. After
the example of the Saints, "our whole life is harmoniously
ordered to preserving the continual remembrance of God. By
the celebration of Eucharist and the Divine Office, by reading
and meditation on the Sacred Scriptures, by private prayer,
vigils and intercessions we strive to have the same mind as
Christ Jesus. In silence and stillness we earnestly seek the
face of the Lord and never cease earnestly seek the face of
the Lord and never cease making intercession with the God of
our salvation that all men and women might be saved." 9
Saint Joseph, whose life was one perpetual prayer and
contemplation, pray for us. 10
In the Litany of the Saints, Saint Joseph's name is
invoked after that of Saint John the Baptist and even before
the names of the Apostles and Patriarchs. The patron of
workers is not Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life,,
but his foster-father Saint Joseph. Our Redeemer is the son
of a carpenter. By divine decree Joseph was given custody of
the living bread from heaven. He was so attuned to God in his
mind that he perceived the message of the angel even in his
sleep. Saint Joseph sought always to do the Father's will.
This is where true Christian glory lies. And in this way did
the carpenter of Nazareth contribute to the establishment of
the reign of God, of which Jesus, the carpenter's Son, was the
founder and King. The Holy Family, that first religious
community, was united in justice, peace and love; each doing
from the heart the Father's will and content and happy to
serve God in this way. Modelling our lives on this first holy
community, we likewise become a leaven "to reconcile all
things in Christ." 11 Our Constitutions assure us that, "since
obedience binds us to Christ and the Church, the labor and
renunciation which it entails continue Christ's self-offering
and take on the character of sacrifice both for ourselves and
for the Church, in whose fulfillment the whole work of
creation is being accomplished." 12
Saint Joseph, perfect model of the interior life, pray
for us. 13
I would like to end this with a quote from a poem
written by a Passionist, Father Augustine Paul Hennessy, who
used to reside at their monastery in West Springfield. I do
not have the complete poem, so an introduction to the setting
is appropriate. Father Augustine Paul, C.P., addresses a
number of Saints by each one's characteristic gift and then,
in just a few short lines, extols the Saint's talented use of
this gift in God's service. Of Saint Joseph, Father writes:
Joseph of the tool chest,
have you no pride?
Why, yes! God kissed me
on the lips every night,
when he was just a little child. 14
1. Mt. 1:19.
2. Mt. 1:20.
3. Robert Aron, The Jewish Jesus (Orbis Books, Maryknoll,
NY, 1971) , p. 47.
4. ibid .
5. LCM, #26, S — I, p. 41.
6. Litany of St. Joseph. The original source is not known.
It is believed to have been a translation from the French
by our foundress, Mother Mary Hyacinth of Jesus
7. Aron, pp. 75-76.
8. Lk. 2:41
9. LCM, #74, S-IV, p. 52.
10. Litany of St. Joseph.
11. 2 Cor. 5:18.
12. LCM, #19, S-II, 38.
13. Litany of St. Joseph.
14. Father Augustine Paul Hennessy, C.P.
GOD WHO REVEALS HIMSELF
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P.
Menlo Park, CA
In his Letter af -rcmuiQatian of ;ne P r o D r 1 urn *cr ire
Dominican Office. Fr. Vincent ae Couesnongle refers to the Vatican
Council document Dei /erdum. ana says that "our T ai:n. as weil as
nur apostolic activity ana all our tneoioaical stuav draw js to a
run ana f r^e aanerence to the Goa w n o revea Is Himself"- 1 -.
Tnerefore. it seems aood to ask. "How coes Goa reveai Himself in
cur Divine Office -1 "
The first ana most obvious revelation is His Real Presence
in the Blessed Sacrament. Most Religious do not nave this privilege
of His Bodily Presence exoosea for adoration as they Dray the
Divine Office. As children gathered arouna their fattier, or as
'.oval subjects celeoratina with their K.ina. so we have the nonor of
worshiDDina "coram Sane t issimo " , in the presence of the Host Mian.
Bcriature is tne word of God. Jesus is the uJora of God.
Therefore, wnen we near Scr xpture reaa . it is God revealina
Himself. God s wara is a love letter which He has addressed to ME
personally. In the Liturgy He says to me. "I have somethina to say
to you".- And I should be all ears to hear the messaae He is
graciously giving to me.
But there are many things which get in my way so that I do not
hear well. One occupational hazard is that I have heard these words
so often that I am too familiar with them: I know them by heart:
thev no longer catch my attention. I have to learn to listen
carefully for a nuance which I have not heard before, or for a new
depth of meaning that I missed last month when they were reaa.
Another problem is that some texts seem so obscure, dull, or
obviously aimed at someboay else. "I never did get anything out of
that text" is often my excuse for paying little attention. But He
is saying it to ME today. He has a message there for ME. I must
listen and ask Him to make known in my heart what He is trying to
sav to me.
Then there is the perennial problem of my wandering mind. Even
if I am thinking about the Office in general. I am often thinkina
about what comes next, or how I will sing or say some other element
which is the part assigned to me. This is the same weakness I have
wnen another Sister speaks to me. Instead of listening to her.
rea 1 1 y listening, I am thinking of what I will say in resaonse.
Lord, teach me to be aware of You soeaking to me. help me to
listen, really LISTEN to You in the Liturgy, and to let this
listening attitude overflow into my encounters with my Sisters in
Commun i ty .
Another way that God reveals Himself in our Liturgy is in tne
Community. He has told us that "Where two or three are gathered
in My Name, there I am in the midst of them".- Certainly, we ar&
gathered in His Name. The Church is the Body of Christ and where
the Body is. there the Head is. too. If only I could SEE Him in our
midst, it would certainly increase my fervor . But my Faith assures
me of His presence and I need to remind myself of it freauentlv. He
is in our midst to pray with us. He will lead us in worship of tne
Father. He prays on our behalf and in our stead. When we make a
mess of it. He prays. "Father, forgive them; for they do not know
what they are doing"."* His prayer makes up for the lukewarmness of
The prayer of Jesus is a fascinating mystery. "He spent the
whole night in prayer to God " . s How wonderful it would be to be
able to listen in on that loving dialogue of Jesus with His Father.
But very likely, being human and needing human words and sentiments
to express Himself, He used the words of the psalms which He had
learned so well that they sprang to His lips to express any
thoughts and emotions that He was experiencing.
Jesus also prayed frequently in the Temple, as did all good
Jews. This was a ceremonial Liturgy just as ours is. He knows from
experience the feel of human beings worshiping God together as a
group. He chanted the Hal lei and other psalms with His family,
friends and disciples, and listened to the reading of the Prophets.
He attended the Morning and Evening sacrifices and the annual
celebrations. Liturgy had a big place in His life and He wants to
celebrate with us.
It is also in the Community that the Holy Spirit reveals
Himself. He is the source of all unity, and so when we blend our
voices in praise and petition, it is the Spirit who brings about
this oneness in the Lord.
God reveals Himself in the Sister reading or singing. He
has chosen to use her as an instrument to send me a message. Each
of us in our turn as reader or singer can pray, "Lord, make me a
channel of Your Word". There are times when I don't care for the
channel the Lord has chosen to convey His waters of wisdom in my
direction. When He says, "I want to give you a drink of health-
giving liqueur from this chalice", I sometimes turn aside with
something like, "No, thanks. Lord. I'll find a drink somewhere
else". With that I turn off my hearing and run ahead in the
Breviary or turn to a more interesting passage.
But whether she is a good reader or singer or a poor one. He
is IN her and is using her for the moment to bring His word to me
to reveal Himself. Even if she is hard to understand, if she
mispronounces words or mumbles, I should still make the effort to
listen. Surely I can get something from what she is saying. The
very effort I make can open me to hear a new meaning in the few
words I do get. The very fact of her mispronouncing a word may oe
His way of nudging me, calling my attention to that part which
holds His message for me today. And if I am really listening and
thinking about what she is saying or singing, I will not be so
likely to come in too soon and cut off her words before she has
quite finished her syllable.
Finally God reveals Himself in my own person. I have the
privilege of being part of that marvelous prayer of Jesus by
joining my voice with His. If only I could hear Him 1 Then I would
make real efforts to blend my voice with His, to keep with Him even
when His speed or pitch doesn't seem quite right. I believe that He
is in me and I am in Him. He uses my vocal cords to praise His
Father. He uses my body to worship with inclinations and gestures.
He uses my mind to probe the meaning of the Scriptures. He uses my
emotions to feel the joy, sadness, hope, love, fear, delight, oain
and frustration of His people in all times and places. The Angels
themselves don't have that privilege. They can sing w ith Him. Put
I have Him singing and pravinp in me.
If I could see and hear You, Lord, I would Pe less likely to
drag my feet in arriving, to make sloppy ceremonies, to Pe lazy ana
listless in using my voice to oraise you. Strengthen my Faith to
make me eager, enthusiastic and fervent in this Opus Dei, this work
of God .
i. Vincent de Couesnongle, Q.P. Supplement to the Liturgy of the
Hours for the Order of Preachers ( Chi cago : Domin 1 can Liturgical
Commission, U.S.A., 1991) p. XIII
2. Luke 7:40
3. Matthew 18:20
4. Luke 23:34
5. Luke 6: 12
The following essay is the condensed form of an article originally published in the September, 1991, issue
of Religious Life Review.
ContemyCative 'ReCiQious '"Women: The American Situation
Twenty- five years Later
Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, OP
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary
Buffalo, New York
How have communities of contemplative women in America borne the challenges of renewal since the
close of the Second Vatican Council? Have the adaptations initiated by the process of renewal altered
the way contemplatives interpret their vocation? Finding answers to these questions presents no small
difficulty. The subject proves a complex and delicate area to explore primarily because renewal is an
on-going process and opinions vary widely as to what constitutes authentic adaptation and what should
be viewed as infidelity to the contemplative ideal. We do possess certain norms, however, that may
serve as starting points in examining the ways in which contemplative women understand their role in the
Church at present. Among these are the four elements specified in Perfectae Caritatis no. 7 as those
that should particularly characterize contemplative life: solitude, silence, an attitude of constant prayer
and voluntary penance. Within the framwork of these four elements, I would like to discuss some of the
effects of renewal on contemplative women in contemporary American society.
The responses to a survey conducted in 1988 among the existing federations and conferences of nuns
regarding their needs and concerns proved an invaluable source of information while preparing this article. 1
I have tried to integrate the data obtained from this survey with that I researched by means of
correspondence with members from among the nearly two hundred communities of contemplative
religious women in this country. To safeguard the personal nature of the responses, I have not quoted
directly from either the survey or the letters received from nuns, but have relied upon statements drawn
from source books, public lecture notes and pamphlets published by the above-mentioned associations to
reinforce my comments.
ConternpCdtive Life as Seen By the CounciC
The opening lines of Perfectae Caritatis no.7 present a pattern for renewal of the religious life modeled
on that already present in the early Christian Church. In placing special emphasis on solitude (particularly
the observance of enclosure in the case of nuns), silence, a spirit readily disposed for prayer and penance,
the decree bids us return to the spirit wNch animated the first monks and nuns who sought a spiritual
rebirth through the love of God and confrontation with the false self. The Church's vision of renewal
centers on the deepening of the individual's relationship with Cod and stresses for contemplative religious
a total and exclusive concentration on Him. Constant prayer, acts of self-sacrifice, solitude and silence all
contribute to this spiritual renewal.
Perfectae Caritatis invites contemplative religious to eliminate from their lives what no longer facilitates
the fullest realization of their vocation, and to weigh those observances proper to their life according to
the principles and criteria specified in the document. In sum, these amount to the following of Christ as
illustrated in the Gospel, a return to the spirit of the founder or foundress of the institute, and a more
vital participation of religious in the concerns and needs of the whole Church with a more enlightened
understanding of social conditions in the modem world. The work of renewal confronting contemplative
communities engages these issues. Much of the disagreement over changes in religious practices stems
from differing interpretations of these essential criteria.
The interpretation of the observance of enclosure appears to generate the widest diversity of opinion
The members of communities of religious women dedicated to the contemplative life are generally bound
by papal enclosure, whose norms the Holy See itself approves and regulates. In addition to the guidelines
issued in PC, the Congregation for Religious in 1969 published the document Vervte Seorsum, which
provides a detailed program for enclosure in monasteries of nuns. According to the 1988 survey and my
own research, one can identify three fundamental attitudes toward enclosure. First, some respondents
tend to view the limited interaction with non-community members necessitated by enclosure legislation as
an obstacle to the realization of the Christian and contemplative ideal. A second group values a more
restricted physical withdrawal, yet maintains a wish to interact openly with non-community members
when legitimate opportunities arise. Finally, a third group opts for a strict interpretation of the laws of
enclosure, with little or no interaction with those outside their community.
For those religious who share the first of these three views, a sincere and deeply felt need exists to share
their experience of Cod with the men and women who approach their monasteries seeking spiritual
direction or requesting prayers for personal intentions. While they understand the need for solitude and
withdrawal, the nuns who opt for a broader interpretation of enclosure view whatever contacts they
have with non-community members as part of a positive and authentic implementation of the Church's
directives. This sentiment finds an echo in two excerpts from a paper delivered at the June, 1989,
meeting of Carmelite Communities Associated by one of the participating nuns:
Many women of genuine prayer today are responding to a compelling, inner,
spiritual urgency that necessitates, for its fulfillment, a totally different concept
of "cloister" or "strict enclosure," with its binding force. The new emphasis on
sharing the fnits and riches of the contemplative life more broadly and concrete-
ly bases itself far more on the Gospel of Jesus Christ than on Canon Law...
The primacy of contemplative prayer in our lives has overflowed in such a way
that sisters so attracted can give time to spiritual direction or companioning,
occasional talks, meeting with prayer groups.. .When this is renewing/energizing
for the [sister], it is renewing/energizing for the community*.
Thus, the nuns in this first group favor a less restricted, more liberal interpretation of enclosure in an
attempt to follow Christ's example more closely.
Looking at cloister from a slightly different perpsective, those religious who form the second group desire
to preserve the structures and practices traditionally associated with papal enclosure, but with
modifications. Most of the respondents within this group have chosen to maintain some form of physical
separation from visitors and friends without, perhaps, relying on the use of grilles and turns. They believe
the occasional use of television, radio and secular newspapers to be an acceptable means of staying
informed of current events, as PC no. 2d recommends. These nuns only leave the enclosure to obtain
medical treatment or to conduct necessary business, although they generally do approve of the
attendance of their sisters at meetings aimed at deepening their appreciation of the contemplative
In contrast to the foregoing interpretations, the nuns who form the third group interpret enclosure in a
"strict" manner, with few or no modifications of the traditional practices of their respective orders. These
religious display the same joyful spirit in living out the commitment of the enclosure as the respondents in
the other two groups, although they limit their interaction with non-community members to an absolute
minimum. They present themselves as individuals who enjoy great freedom of heart, whose spiritual
embrace encompasses the world insofar as they withdraw from the cares and preoccupations of secular
society. An excerpt from a pamphlet published by the Poor Clare Federation of Mary Immaculate
articulates this point of view:
Vente Seorsum does not treat only of concepts of withdrawal and the
spiritual exodus common to Christianity in any of its lifestyles, but of
actually withdrawing into solitude to lead a particular type of life. The
instruction asks superiors to bear in mind that the purity and fervor of the
cloistered life depends to a great extent on the strict observance of the
rules of enclosure"...Cloister is not the dominant note, but the supporting one.
It is the very good servant— we would say the indispensible servant-of the
canonical contemplative life. For those called to it, cloister is not a burden
but a precious gift of God and Church. 3
Despite the obvious differences of outlook concerning the observance of enclosure, all respondents
fundamentally agree that it does not represent an end in itself. Without exception, the contemplative
women whom I contacted believe that they must focus their vocation on union with Cod. They value
enclosure insofar as it serves to deepen their awareness of the Lord's love for them and for all
Enclosure and silence are integrally connected in the contemplative life. Withdrawal, in fact, aims at
providing an atmosphere that excludes to a great extent the ordinary business and concerns of secular
society, making silence and prayerful recollection easier to achieve.
Following the tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, most of the founders and foundresses of the
contemplative orders looked upon silence as the guardian of all monastic observance; they taught that
the limitation or suppression of speech fosters control of memory and the imagination, thus freeing the
mind to dwell on Cod. All contemplative religious seem to value the observance of silence as an
efficacious means of promoting spiritual growth.
As nuns reflected upon the importance of silence in their life, however, they realized that control of the
spoken word does not automatically or necessarily lead to interior silence. For example, without suitable
spiritual formation and some insight into the dynamics of human psychology, those who lead a life of
rigorous exterior silence have occasionally found themselves repressing or denying emotions that might find
normal expression in properly regulated speech. Not a few contemplative religious thus comment on the
need to maintain a balance between silence and speaking. As one nun points out,
Silence...is not a negative element or the mere absence of words and sounds.
Speech, in itself, is a positive value intended by the Creator as a vehicle of
authentic human communication expressive of charity, unity, truth and the
fostering of the noble quality and purpose of human life...But our experience
tells us that speech has been abused and has become a source of falsehood,
division and strife. This misuse requires a penitiential effort to restore it to
its intended purpose. By the practice of silence we learn to use speech for
the sake of truth and love, not for the sake of self-assertion, ambition
or exploitation. 4
Yet finding the balance between silence and speech proves difficult. Beyond the talking required by the
ordinary flow of community life, the post-conciliar years provided many opportunities for contemplative
women to speak as they came together at meetings to discuss the renewal of their life according to the
Council's requirements. The up-dating of constitutions and directories necessitated regularly-held chapter
discussions within most monasteries. Lectures and classes on theological and scriptural topics became
more frequent, and most contempltive communities of women permitted the introduction of
conversations among the nuns as a means of promoting their spiritual and psychological development.
Confronted with more occasions to speak at present than in the past, a number of nuns indicate that the
individual herself must assume more responsibility for the observance of silence. Legislation can be and
often is invoked to safeguard exterior silence, but these religious believe they can best meet the
challenges imposed by renewal by means of mature judgment and self-discernment. Accordingly, each
nun should assume greater responsibility to safeguard the spirit of recollection within her monastery and
her own sod. Most contemplative religious appear to welcome the emphasis placed on personal
responsibility concerning the observance of silence as a healthy shift in outlook from an attitude often
characterized by a rather narrow and rigid legalism. In the Christian life, interior liberty should mark an
individual's growth toward union with Cod; as His love supplants fear, the need for religious formalism
JA Spirit HeadiCy Disposed for Tenance
The importance of asceticism in the contemplative life cannot be understood outside the context of
Christ's own example: those who aspire to follow Him more closely must be prepared to lose their lives
in order to find life in the Lord. The Council stressed the need for religious to reflect upon the role of
penance in their life in light of the Gospel's call to conversion and purity of heart, urging them to
eliminate those forms of penance judged unsuitable or harmful to their physical or psychological health
There seems to be little disaggreement among contemplatives concerning the need for asceticism in their
life, but opinions differ regarding the manner in which they should carry out penitential practices. The
nuns with whom I corresponded repeatedly commented on the fact that before the recent changes
ushered in by the Council, external penances were incorporated into their daily life without individual,
personal need or capacity being sufficiently taken into consideration. Such indiscriminately applied
practices often led to a negative understanding or even a rejection of the intrinsic worth and dignity of
the human body. The delicate interconnection between body and soul in the growth of the whole
human person toward God was at times overlooked or even denied.
In seeking to revitalize the contemplative life through the practice of asceticism, most communities favor
the unspectacular, hidden forms of penance, those that promote self-discipline and the spirit of
self-donation for the common good and check the desire to control or judge others. Traditional monastic
penances thus continue to hold an important place, fasting and abstaining from meat or other types of
food, night-rising for prayer, wearing the monastic habit and generously living out the common life
according to the approved customs of the particular monastery.
In whatever form it takes, contemplative women esteem the practice of asceticism as a means of
opening themselves as completely as possible to the action of grace. Interpreted in this way, penance
serves as a fruitful preparation for prayer.
It seems fairly apparent from their replies that the process of renewal has not altered contemplative
women's understanding of the role and significance of prayer in their life. Intimate, uninterrupted
communion with God remains the ultimate concern, the cherished ideal of their existence. To be sure, all
do not receive the grace to know God in the obscure, quasi-experiential manner of contemplation.
Nevertheless, the changes instituted by the Council, especially as regards the liturgy and the impetus given
to ecumenism in the post-conciliar Church, could not but influence and in some measure alter the way
Encouraged by the breadth and flexibility of the revised Liturgy, many contemplatives said they felt
impelled to explore a less structured way of prayer, often seeking and obtaining permission to experiment
with different liturgical settings. Customs such as reading prepared communal meditations aloud and the
imposing of assigned spiritual reading gradually fell away in most monasteries of women in this country as
a less formal approach to prayer began to develop. Several communities observed that the new liturgical
rite, with its numerous options and the ability to be adapted to various cultures, allows for greater liberty
of spirit in worship. They find the revised Liturgy-shortened, simplified and prayed in the
vernacular-offers those who use it the opportunity to internalize more of what they recite.
To some extent an increased appreciation of world religions also influenced the way nuns pray. Dialogue
between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic religions offered contemplative women the chance to
learn about and experience prayer in the Eastern tradition, often resulting in a deeper appreciation of the
riches contained in the spirituality of the Christian West. In a paper given at the 1988 meeting of the
American Benedictine Academy we read:
Light from the East on our own Scriptures and Christian mystics is
teaching us that the inner transformation process begins with contemplative
prayer. Non-Christian ways of prayer and meditation are aiding us in fostering
our Christian, Benedicitine spirituality by helping us rediscover aspects of our
own spirituality which have been neglected during the past centuries, and
therefore are bringing us to a deeper understanding and appreciation of
the mystery of life in Christ. 5
Looking at the changes made in the way contemplatives pray leads to the question, "Does changing the
manner of prayer affect praying itself?" All of the nuns with whom I discussed this question replied that
they believe it does for them, but they preferred not to make generalizations regarding so personal and
unique an experience. Owing to the interaction between body and soul in the accomplishment of all
human acts, however, it seems likely that the process of renewal affected not only the manner in which
contempltives pray but also, to a greater or lesser degree, the experience of prayer itself.
Beneath the pluralism of expression in terms of observance and custom, contemplative religious women
remain committed to their ideal. How these women interpret the effects of renewal in regard to
enclosure, silence, asceticism and prayer depends on such conditions as the age and number of their
community's members, the number of vocations they receive, their economic stability and the availably
of ministerial personnel. Judging by their responses to my questions concerning the contemplative life,
however, all the nuns with whom I spoke or corresponed agree in their fundamental understanding and
appreciation of their vocation. Contemplative women endeavor to forget themselves as objects of
reflection in order to find themsleves and all humankind in Christ. They see their life as one of prayerful
intercession, reparation and freedon through grace. Their lives continue to bear witness to Christ's
promise, "Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall see Cod." (Mt 5:8)
1. The survey was conducted by Sister Lilla Marie Hull, MM., in preparation for a lecture entitled "The
Concerns and Needs of Contemplative Religious Women Today," delivered at the National Conference of
Vicars for Religious, March 11, 1989. I am grateful to Sr. Lilla Marie for graciously sharing her survey
notes and lecture with me.
2. The Documents of Vatican II , edited by Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (New York: America Press. 1966V p.471
3. From a lecture delivered at the 1971 meeting of CCA, cited within the lecture entitled "Contemplative
Life in Carmel: A Review of the Renewal Years," given by Sister Jean Alice McGoff, O.C.D., pp. 4 and 7.
I am indebted to Sr. Jean for her kind permission to quote from her lecture.
4. With Light Step and Unstumbling Feet , 1977, pp. 3 and 5.
5. Sister Mary Catherine Wolfe, O.P., "The Following of Christ, II Regular Observance," One Mind and
Heart in God: Dominican Monastic Life , ed. by Sister Mary Catherine Wolfe, O.P., (Conference of Nuns of
the Order of Preachers of the United States, 1989), p. 83.
6. Sister Pascaline Coff, O.S.B., "Eastern Influences on Benedictine Spirituality," Cistercian Studies , 24:3
ThEy macJe me stronq, Thick ANd Ionq
Heavy ancj twIstecI, ROuqh-sldEd, cold.
HAMMEREd, bEATEN, dull-pOlNTEd
GRlNdEd, so tMat I could turn ANd hold
Into spllNTEREd wood
Or whATEVER ThEy sMAshEd me Into.
I CAME WlTh MANy OThERS.
ShoVEd ANd CARElESSly ThROWN TOQEThER IN A hEAp
TO AWAlT My TURN.
An uNkNOWN dESTlNy.
But I kNE\v It would coME..soMEdAy.
BITTERNESS QREW..I hAd UlN SO lONQ, WAlTlNQ.
ColdNESS dEEpENEd, STlffNESS, shARpNESS.
IN dARkNESS, UNAblE TO SEE, MOVE OR ACCOMpllsh,
My Iron TASTEd Iron, bluE biTTERNESs on My tonque.
INdlffERENCE plTTEd AQAlNST RUST.
NOT MANy Of US lEfT..SOON NOW.. SOON.
ThE Lid WAS TORN ASldE.
A hANd SCRUMMAQEd, fEEllNq fOR A STRENQTh I hAd.
I WAS UfTEd
ThROWN Into a pockET dARkNESS, saqqInq, danqInq, dlNkiNq
I STlffENEd... EXpECTANTly.
My Iron RollEd aqaInst OThERS.
StINQINQ hARdNESS, COld INdlffERENCE
All SWlNQlNQ TO A fATE ... AN ENdlNQ.
It wasn't a Ionq wait.
ToSSEd ON ThE QROUNd, I RollEd Into UqhT
WlTh A fEW OThERS, In sTlcky dusT.
ThERE WAS A lOT Of NOlSE.
I COUld NOT SEE, IT WASN'T My NATURE TO SEE
But ONly to fASTEN ANd hold
In Rigid bliNdNESs.
OThERS WERE fiRST..
Stranqe vlbRATlONs shook ME
WhERE I Uy.
ThERE WAS A SUddEN dROp Of WARMNESS ON My hEAd
GRAbbEd, ANd pOlSEd Ab0VE A SOfTNESS
My Inner coyness TREMblEd, RECOlUd, pulUd apart,
Even I, Iron as I was, kNEw ThE Touch.
It Took a few TERRiblE blows
TO SENd ME SMAShiNq ThROUqh.
AqaInst My hEAd tIhe rInqInq spARks
Till My fEET hlT ThE wood ANd duq In .. dEEp.
AN AWESOME SOfTNESS ClOSEd AbOUT ME
SACREdNESS STOOd UpON My STRENQTh.
MY GOD, MY GOD .. I SHRIEKED ! DID THEY NOT KNOW?
I pullEd, STRAlNEd, REAChEd .. SEEklNQ RElEASE.
But tIhe patient fEET hsld me.
So hElplESS, so hElpUss..
A shAfT of Iron wRAppEd In shATTEREd paIn.
Must I de RESlqNEd to pUy My dESTlNEd roIe?
1 WAS MAdE TO hold, TO fASTEN
SElECTEd, chOSEN ..
God.. I MUST .. I MUST.
I flRMEd OUT TO qlVE SUppORT
TO ThE plNlONEd fEET ASTRldE My DACk.
ColdNESS TURNEd TO WARMTh AS flESh SEARChEd
For some hold of coMfoRT.
NO .. I COUld NOT SEE .. I WAS ONly IRON.
But qUd I was foR My loNq Rouqh JIrmness
ThAT hEld SO ClOSE ThE TATTEREd fEET
1 would hold HIm as loNq as He wllUd
SENdlNq Up ThROUqh ThE REddENEd STREAM
My OWN SllENT AdORATlON.
WlTh My polNT bEddEd In ThE wood
I OpENEd WldE TO hold ThE WANlNq STRENqTh.
O such wElqhT .. such wElqhT.
Eons, eons .. on My uNbENdlNq ore.
O awesome dESTiNy! I fouNd My pUcE
ANd COUld NOT Wish fOR MORE.
ANd whEN I AM pullEd OUT
ANd Uld AsidE..
I Will NEVER bE ThE SAME
For REdEEMlNq Blood hAS wAshEd My Iron
ANd MAdE It cIean.
Sister Mary Angela
My words are not my own now.
I am the words of the one who made me. 1
In the beginning was the Word 2
and the Word created
the deep in me
a formless void
only the Word was there,
in black shadow hovering.
Then there was light in me,
which the darkness vied
but could not overpower.
And I saw the light was good,
And I watched the Word
divide darkness from light
and name them.
So it came, my first day.
In shadow and light
I flowed endlessly
until the Word
vaulted and clove me
into two parts:
the second day
Then the Word established land in me.
earth on which to settle and be constant
and in my stable ground,
the Word shaped trees
that bore fruit
with seeds in their very middles
and plants and flowers sprung up,
red, yellow, green, blue
all with seeds, seeds!
Ground and life
the third day.
Then the Word said,
"I will conceal infinity from you."
It made separate lights,
one hot orb for day
and at night a moveable circle
which grew like a white thought,
then faded to silence
And stars were made
to sparkle me
"There's a festival today!"
They made me forget the boundless.
Steady the sun, the moon, the stars, beat their rhythm,
the fourth day.
Then the Word created
birds in me
some that hung on wind
some that closed their wings
to dive for prey.
And it made creatures that moved
in my depths:
Leviathans, and clawed shells
that crept on the bottom
and simple swimmers
wearing flesh of gold
and green and grey.
and I was afraid the fifth day
But, the Word would not stop.
It pulled from my deep, black core
hooved creatures, serpents
howling and digging.
Trembling, I ran through
this creation and cried out
like a poet in a stone tower,
"What hurts the soul
My soul adores.
No better than a beast
upon all fours." 3
And, desolate, I crawled into a cave of earth.
But, the Word found me
It said, "What are you doing here?" 4
It took me into the world again
and formed me into the shape of itself.
Yet, I was the dust of a soft pencil
Thin, frail letters on a page
Until the Word blew gently
on the edges of my letters,
It entered me
and I knew the Word was God
God was in me
I was in God
I was a word holding creation.
And he whispered in a soft breeze
keep me here inside you
and I shall give you dominion
over all that I have made in you."
I did not cover my face like Elijah 5
I called like Tieresias,
like John from water:
"Laudate Dominum, my darkness and light
Laudate eum, my heaven and earth.
Praise God, my trees and plants.
Praise God, my birds and beasts. 6
Give praise, my people,
the sixth day
On the seventh day
The Word rested in me
and blessed me
and made me holy.
I would be a master craftsman,
delighting in the Word;
day after day
Ever at play in its presence
at play everywhere in its world. 7
S. Mary Ann of Jesus, O.P
1. John 14:24
2. John 1:1
3. W.B. Yeats, "What Hurts the Soul"
4. Gen. 3:9
5. 1 Kings 19:13
6. Psalm 148
7. Proverbs 8:30-31
ALIVE IN TRUTH
A new world alive in truth,
in peaceful possession of your first beauty,
teach us, Americas, lush with virgin soil,
to become white as shepherd's sheep wool,
noble as purple mountain majesty.
Alive in truth,
fired fast in chains,
red skins bound fast in slavery,
teach us to forgive,
as you did, peoples of the South and of the North.
Ground us unto meal in your spirit,
in life, liberty, happiness.
Alive in truth,
rained upon in poverty,
over shadowed in suffering,
you witness to us now,
you moisten words of grace,
you utter parables long forgotten,
you breathe forth the odor of wisdom
in your solid, stolid tree trunk courage.
Alive in truth,
come unite us Montesinos, Cordoba, las Casas,
Bertrand, Rose, Martin, John, Mazzuchelli,
ride swift your mounts through our slick paved streets
Whistle forth the watch dog of Dominic.
send forth the biting torch of truth,
the rekindling flame of integrity.
Come, Great Spirit!
Brand us unto new life.
Sister Mary Regina, O.P
Farmington Hills, MI
This poem honors the anniversary of the founding of the Americas
as well as the spiritual and missionary work of Dominicans in the
New World. The Dominican persons mentioned were heroic in the
faith and in their efforts for peace and social justice toward
the indigenous of the land.
The Book of Revelation: The Open Book of Prophecy / by Charles Homer Giblin, SJ,
1991, Collegeville, "A Michael Glazier Book", (Good News Studies, vol. 34).
The theme of our Assembly, pointing as it did toward the 21st century, brought
to mind a phenomenon that often comes along at the turn of the century namely,
the use of apocalyptic imagery and vocabulary. We who by vocation become
steeped in God's Word are frequently in touch with the apocalyptic in our
everyday reading of Scripture. The great New Testament work cast in the
literary genre known as "apocalypse" is, of course, John of Patmos' Book of
Revelation. If you have found this intriguing work to be a "sealed scroll
which no one can open", you will welcome the new insights provided in The Book:
of Revelation: The Open Book of Prophecy by Charles Homer Giblin, SJ.
Thanks to Fr. Brian Davies, OP, the Bronx community has had the privilege of
monthly Scripture lectures by Fr. Giblin who teaches at nearby Fordham
University. Perhaps by pointing you in the direction of his commentary on
Revelation we can share his expertise with you.
Fr. Giblin contends that an understanding of the eschatology and literary
structure of Revelation provides the key that unlocks its meaning, and his
entire book can be said to revolve around those two pivotal points. The
originality of his contribution is to be found in his convincing approach to
the entire trajectory of Revelation as a unified whole, both theologically and
as a carefully-wrought literary composition. This is spelled out especially in
his treatment of the cohesive thematic of God's Holy War of Liberation as
Gospel. A comparison with other commentaries, such as that of Adela Yarbro
Collins in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary , shows the unigueness of Fr.
Giblin 's thesis. Using Fr. Giblin 's book as a guide, a careful study of
Revelation makes one appreciate the intricately orchestrated and highly
sophisticated piece of inspired writing we have in this word of God in the
words of John.
The author brings to this little paperback the fruit of thirty years of labor.
Though intended for a fairly wide audience, it is by no means a guick-study,
but the effort involved in mastering its 231 pages is well rewarded. For
convenience, the entire text of Revelation is included. The footnotes and
parenthetical notes give many bibliographical references that are enriching to
pursue. I found it useful to photocopy the outline-precis provided on pages
12-18 and to keep this close at hand as I studied. Its presence eliminated
some of the frustration that is inevitable in studying such a complex work.
Fr. Giblin gave us two additional charts not found in the book and these are
helpful study aids also. I would gladly mail a copy to anyone who is
You will notice a few typos here and there but most are obvious. If I were to
make any criticism at all it would be to comment on the awkwardness of some of
the sentences. Parenthetical information is sometimes inserted in such a way
that a rereading is needed in order to grasp the somewhat obscured meaning. An
index would be a helpful addition. But these are minor points.
I think that by your study of Fr. Giblin 's book you will find yourself drawn
more deeply into this revelation: of our Father, "the Enthroned"; of the risen
Lord Jesus, "the Pierced One", "the victorious Lamb"; and of the Spirit, the
source of prophetic inspiration who "speaks to the churches". It is they who
draw us and enable us to say: "Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving
and honor and power and might belong to our God for ever and ever. Amen 1 "
Sr. Lee, OP, Bronx
CONFERENCE OF NUNS OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
CORPUS CHRISTI MONASTERY
1230 Lafayette Avenue
Hunts Point, Bronx, NY 10474
MONASTERY OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
335 Doat St.
Buffalo, NY 14211
MONASTERY OF MARY THE QUEEN
1310 W. Church St.
Elmira, NY 14905
MONASTERY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
29575 MWdlebelt Rd.
Farmington Hills, Ml 48018
MONASTERY OF ST. DOMINIC
375 13th Avenue
Newark, NJ 07103
MONASTERY OF OUR LADY OF GRACE
11 Race Hill Rd.
North Guilford, CT 06437
MONASTERY OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
543 Springfield Ave.
Summit, NJ 07901
DOMINICAN NUNS OF THE PERPETUAL ROSARY
802 Court St.
Syracuse, NY 13208
MONASTERY OF THE IMMACULATE HEART
1834 Lititz Pike
Lancaster, PA 17601
DOMINICAN NUNS OF THE PERPETUAL ROSARY
14th and West Sts.
Union City, NJ 07087
MONASTERY OF THE ANGELS
1977 Carmen Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
MONASTERY OF THE INFANT JESUS
1501 Lotus Lane
Lufkin, TX 75901
CORPUS CHRISTI MONASTERY
215 Oak Grove Ave.
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Affiliate Member Monastery
LES MONIALES DOMINICAINES
1140Frontencac, C.P. 479
Canada JOK 1AO
ST. DOMINIC'S MONASTERY
4901 16th St., N.W.
Washington, DC 2001 1
MONASTERY OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
1430 Riverdale St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Affiliate Member Monasteries
No. 2 St. Ann's Rd.
Port of Spain, Trinidad, W.I.
MONASTERY OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
Rizal, 1900 Philippines
Conference Council (1992-1996)
Sister Mary Thomas, OP (Farmington), President
Sister Miriam, OP, Vice President Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, OP, Secretary
(Elmira) (Menlo Park )
Sister Mary Martin, OP, Councillor Sister Lee, OP, Councillor